The UAPB Art Experience opened the eyes of a 5-year-old in downtown Pine Bluff.
“I’m mixing up colors with new colors to make them beautiful,” Zion Reed said.
Zion and his play-grandmother, Betty Brown, discovered the beauty of their new color spectrums under the tutelage of University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff graduate Scinthya Edwards, just one of a few instructors who shared the joy of art with visitors in the city’s art district along Main Street.
The three-hour festival was the result of a Windgate Foundation grant the university received. Karen DeJarnette, the chair of UAPB’s art department, said similar activities will be planned throughout the year.
“We’re just sharing different art experiences with any age group, from elders down to toddlers,” DeJarnette said. “Today is our first kickoff event for this grant, and we’re doing a series of events throughout the year in different parts of the city, all outside.”
Visitors learned acrylic painting, ceramics and pottery, watercolors, chalk drawing and printmaking. UAPB graduate and vocalist Mary Rowe, who goes by the stage name Afroshojo, also performed.
The goal of the Art Experience was to bring more creativity and community outreach, UAPB grant coordinator Te’Arra Stewart said.
“[We’re] trying to bridge or mend the student activity on campus with the community and exposing them to more art,” Stewart said.
A large mural behind The ARTSpace on Main provided a backdrop for the festival. Volunteer artists, along with those from Matthew Fields’ advanced painting class at UAPB, painted the unnamed work.
“The students wanted to do something that was representative of the performing arts, but also spoke toward street culture, as many of them are African American,” Fields said. “They wanted to bring a little bit of themselves into it. So, this piece is really representative of taking the chaos and commotion of the world around you and finding peace in your art and your performance.”
A favorite on the Pine Bluff art scene, 2006 UAPB graduate and middle-school arts teacher Yelena Petroukhina taught the basics of pottery Saturday. The Art Experience was a much-needed outlet in the city, in her view.
“It is very special,” she said. “I think UAPB is such a great school. When I was there, I learned so much, I had some of the best instructors. After the pandemic, people need the arts as part of the expression, especially like getting some clay on the wheel instead of sitting in front of the computer, something tactile that we can touch and just have enjoyment of that.”