Dawes to open 'Whispers in the Trees' art exhibit July 15
Fine art may not grow on trees, but it is hanging from them at the Dawes Arboretum, 7770 Jacksontown Road in Newark.
Newark artist Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart worked with several local organizations and individuals to create the Whispers in the Trees community project, featuring fabric panels which she describes as "a conglomeration of color and energies" that will hang in select Dawes trees through autumn.
According to a Dawes press release, the fabric panels have gone through a lot to become pieces of art. The many processes to create the artwork on more than 100 yards of fabric and 24 panels have included dying, pressing, cutting, sewing, painting, stamping and even microwaving. Properly hanging the weighted panels called for a consultation with an aeronautical engineer.
Stewart also made sure all paint and materials used are environmentally friendly.
Stewart said there is a name and story for each panel.
"The people who worked on it tell the story. I just facilitate it," she said.
One, named "Sister Trees," depicts two trees Stewart saw at the arboretum growing side by side. She said the children and adults who helped paint were amazed at how each layer affects the next.
"It's such a freeing program," said Stewart, who encourages all to participate in making art and believes every person's mark is important.
Dawes spokeswoman Laura Appleman said the Whispers in the Trees opening reception for Stewart is from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, July 15, at Dawes Arboretum.
"Refreshments will be available and visitors can meet the artist who created the beautiful panels in the trees," she said.
Appleman said from 1:30 to 3 p.m. there will be a Music in the Garden concert featuring a chamber combo so visitors can come for the music and stay for the opening.
Appleman said many community groups and organizations have taken part in the creation of the panels. Volunteers, the YES Group, a developmentally disabled group from Columbus, home-schooled children's groups, participants in Arboretum programs and some passersby have all offered helping hands.
Stewart said the community involvement has made a terrific impact.
"I think about how fragile we are as human spirits," she said. "I want everyone involved to be empowered to make their art and say, 'I was a part of that,' to come over and just play with me."
Stewart sometimes offers free art programs for local children at her downtown Newark art studio, Whispers and Echoes.
"I want to show them the power of making something beautiful," she said.
Stewart is no stranger to teaching. She completed undergraduate degrees in elementary and special education and earned a master's degree in women's studies, art and textiles.
As for Stewart's take on the fabric display she's worked so hard on, she said she just wants to inspire Dawes visitors.
"It's a celebration of nature," she said. "I call them prismatic colors dancing with the breezes and the trees."