DALLAS — Victoria Brown, of Swoyersville, is an artist.
At the gallery opening for Verve Vertu’s “Whimsy and Wonder” show at Misericordia University April 6, she wore a t-shirt that plainly said so. And, to prove it, she proudly stood near her splendid batik wall-hanging and talked to all visitors about dyes, crackle work and the gold-painted flower design on the reverse side.
Brown was one of more than a dozen artists whose works will fill the Pauly Friedman Art Gallery on the university’s campus until June 2.
Verve Vertu is an arts apprentice studio where people dealing with emotional, physical or intellectual development challenges can tap into their creativity and learn new skills.
The exhibit is the result of many hours of work by young people who spend up to four days each week at the downtown Dallas workshop where they create art ranging from small items like note cards and purses to wall hangings, collages, paintings and painted furniture.
It’s the second year the exhibit is being shown in the Misericordia gallery, largely because students and professors in the university’s occupational therapy program work in cooperation with Verve Vertu.
“There are three of us on the committee to spearhead this,” said Olivia Natale, of Staten Island, NY, now in her fourth year in the OT program. “And about 10 of us go every week to Verve Vertu to work with the people there on their artwork.”
Perhaps “work” is not the right word, she admitted.
“I like the experience I’m getting working with the participants there. But it’s more than just getting experience,” she said. “Verve Vertu is such a happy, a joyous place.”
In fact, “happy” and “joyous” were words heard throughout the gallery during the evening. Visitors milled about, commenting on the happy colors, the joy that radiated from the artwork and the creative way each of the artists took an idea and made paint, cloth, even odd and curious objects into art pieces.
It all starts with the artists themselves.
“I like doing art,” said artist April Cross, of Edwardsville. “My favorite thing is to do 3-D pieces.” She explained her painting of a long-horned steer features a crown of paper-clay flowers and horns created from seashells.
“Art is, well, it just makes me happy,” she said.
The art works help their creators feel a sense of pride, as well.
“I like doing batiks best,” said Amy Yurchision, of Shavertown. “And I’m a volunteer, too. I like volunteering best because I can help out the others.”
Michael Hungarter, of Kingston, found his niche at Verve Vertu several years ago, and now he creates whimsical pieces in a variety of media. He had several pieces in the show, but the ornate door done in acrylics with a hot-air balloon decked out with upholstery trim got the most attention.
“Yeah, but I like to do wind socks best,” he said, pointing to another side of the gallery where they hung.
The evening opened with a film, “I Am an Artist,” a documentary about art programs in several New Jersey schools where teachers encourage students, considered “challenged” or “disabled” by the educational establishment, can express themselves and develop their talents.
“And this film reflects what we are doing here,” said Verve Vertu’s art director Gwen Harleman. “It is important to make anyone feel special, not different. And we continue to work at helping everyone to feel like they are part of the community.”