Art Students Color the Community

by Public Relations Office—Cedarville, Ohio

Cedarville, Ohio—Surrounded by hasty sketches, buried worktables, woodcuts and half-done oil paintings, a petite girl hurries from one canvas to another. The refinished chairs and couches in the back corner hold another young man and woman, talking and flipping through magazines, scissors in hand. Verve and vivacity energize the room. Welcome to Studio 61.

    Cedarville University senior Joshua Ohms leans casually against the only clear wall space available. To his right hangs a ceiling-to-floor lakeside photograph and, to his left, watercolors abound. “Art is not just something on a wall. It is a concept, purposefully thought out … it gives expression, life and spice to a community,” says Ohms.

    Five upperclassmen-Ohms, Josh Francis, Sarah Gneiser, Erica Petry and Mike Steiner-have created their own public art studio in downtown Cedarville. Studio 61 is not a polished gallery or a store. It is a chance to meet young, eager artists stretching their skills through bigger canvases, more-detailed plans and new media. Through open houses and open hours, visitors watch as art is taken from conceptual sketches to the final product.

    Motioning to her set of watercolors, Petry says, “I find the actual artistic process so interesting that it is fun to share the experience of my own art with the community.” She has chosen to focus her capstone work on a series of cityscapes, one of which has been purchased by Cedarville University.

    Senior projects are taking shape in Studio 61under the wise guidance of art professors Terry Chamberlain, Aaron Gosser and Bruce Grimes. Gosser in particular encouraged Ohms to develop his talents by taking on more mature themes. His space is dominated by four large oil canvases, which Ohms hopes will provoke thoughtful discussion about the evolving sex-saturated media by offering a critique of the commercial world’s surrender to lust. Foraging into such dynamic subjects, the students agree, has been an impetus for personal growth and giving.

    While gaining real-world experience as adult artists, they have also connected to the community. Thursday nights the walls echo with children’s laughter as twenty paintbrushes swirl color onto otherwise lifeless sheets of paper. The artists give weekly lessons to local Cedar Cliff Elementary and homeschooled students. Steiner sees it as a privilege, saying, “I’ve been lent a portion of Cedarville and it is my intent to give back to the community through my artistic contribution.”

    The young students enjoy the one-on-one time available through multiple instructors, and benefit from seeing their teachers’ unity and teamwork. Recently, these five distinctly different minds all collaborated on a 50s-themed oil painting for Rhonda Kuriger, a Cedarville resident and owner of the property. She plans to convert the space into a diner sometime in the future after her tenants graduate.