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Cumming Arts Center opens new exhibit featuring member artists, plans for big end-of-year events
Cumming Arts Center
Abstract expressionist painter John Kirkpatrick points out one featured painting in the Cumming Art Center’s new gallery rotation running through Aug. 28. The curator of the current rotation, Kirkpatrick paired together different elements in the gallery to make the art pop. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

The Sawnee Association of the Arts opened a new art exhibit to the public at the Cumming Arts Center beginning on July 8 featuring a variety of works from 18 member artists.

The center was closed through most of the last year as events and galleries were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through that closure, Sawnee Association of the Arts, or SAA, held virtual events like the Autumn in the City Virtual Art Show, which included works from both members and the community.

The building slowly opened back up, beginning with some small classes in March. Now, officials with SAA said they are happy to have the Cumming Arts Center and its gallery fully open to the public again.

Marilyn DeCusati, a member of the SAA and a jewelry and fiber artist, said the gallery will feature four different rotations this year, each with a different curator. The current exhibit is this year’s second rotation. The first was held in May.

John Kirkpatrick, who is an abstract expressionist painter, curated the current exhibit, bringing in different elements to make the art pop out from the walls.

“I wanted to bring the art out with sort of a 3D effect, so when you see it, it’s not just up on the wall,” Kirkpatrick said. “Now, you get a feel for it.”

To help do this, he placed other pieces that fit in with the various works. For example, onlookers can find a vase full of blooming orange and blue flowers underneath one of Kirkpatrick’s paintings featuring the same colors.

A horse saddle is also displayed near one standout oil painting by Art McNaughton which depicts His Horse is Thunder, a native American who previously served as the president of Sitting Bull College, formerly Standing Rock College.

Cumming Arts Center
Art McNaughton, a local oil painter, deviated from his normal art style to create this featured painting, which depicts His Horse is Thunder leading a group of students along what was the Trail of Tears. Onlookers can spot the outline of Sitting Bull in the blue sky. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

McNaughton said he is a relative of Sitting Bull, and every year during the winter, he takes a group of students out to ride horses along the path of the Trail of Tears where Sitting Bull died in 1890. The painting depicts Thunder in the foreground on a horse in front of three students with the form of Sitting Bull’s spirit forming in the sky in the background.

Aside from these paintings, the exhibit at the Cumming Art Center features a variety of art in different mediums, including photography, 3D art, jewelry, wood pieces and more.

It also includes encaustic art, which is an ancient art form using melted natural beeswax and damar resin, a natural tree sap. Artists then mix the resin and beeswax with oil paints to create their pigments, which they layer and melt to create their piece.

The encaustic works included in the gallery are photographs where the wax was used on top of the photo to create a dreamy, smooth effect.

The exhibit will run through Aug. 28. The Cumming Arts Center is at 111 Pilgrim Mill Road, Cumming, GA 30040. For more information, visit sawneeart.org.

Cumming Arts Center
Pianos for Peace, a nonprofit organization that aims to make the arts accessible for all, recently donated a painted piano to the Cumming Arts Center. It now sits on the building's front porch for anyone to come up and play. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

Take an art class

For those interested in the art form, member Kris Straukas teaches an encaustics class at the Cumming Arts Center that is open to the public. She also teaches drawing and crocheting alongside other teachers who offer classes on woodworking, jewelry, expressionism and much more.

For more information on classes and pricing, visit the Cumming Arts Center’s website at www.sawneeart.org.

The Cumming Arts Center recently extended its hours, opening from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday to Saturday.

What’s next

Going forward, DeCusati said they are looking forward to holding larger events as COVID-19 cases fall in Forsyth County and surrounding communities. They plan to hold an event nearly every month for the remainder of the year beginning with the World of Art on Sept. 11.

During the event, a portion of Pilgrim Mill Road will be closed to traffic so they can set up tents for both indoor and outdoor exhibits, workshops, food stalls and more. It will feature art, dancing and food from many different cultures and nationalities from across the globe.

DeCusati said it will also be a great event for kids who will be with provided chalk to use on the concrete and a reading tree.

The center has also partnered with the American Cancer Society and the City of Cumming to hold a lantern parade on Oct. 23, and they are continuing with the 18th annual Christmas Arts and Crafts Festival at Lanier Technical College on Nov. 20-21.

For more information, visit sawneeart.org.

Cumming Arts Center
One of John Kirkpatrick’s featured works is aptly named “Graffiti,” as it includes brushes and splashes of paint strewn below an easel and canvas. - photo by Sabrina Kerns
Cumming Arts Center
Among the featured artists are local photographers. One member used digital photography, bringing out different elements and pops of color in an otherwise black and white photo. - photo by Sabrina Kerns
Cumming Arts Center
The gallery features a variety of different works from local artists, including finished pieces of wood. - photo by Sabrina Kerns
Cumming Arts Center
The 2021 Cumming Arts Center calendar is still available in the gift shop. It includes various works not only from member artists, but also from community members who submitted their own work. - photo by Sabrina Kerns