More than art, teachers at the Gallery Group gain inspiration

First Posted: 5/21/2009

When Countess Vaughn Dreck, an artist who uses her stage name, rather than her birth name, first learned about the Gallery Group at 162A West Pine Street, she thought it was just for special needs artists.
But once she got involved with the art gallery and studio as a teacher and volunteer, she quickly changed her mind.
I wish we could get more local artists to do this, its so rewarding, said Dreck, who volunteers and teaches at the art gallery. When you see what the students create, its so inspiring.
Richard Zagurski and Cassie S. Snow know exactly what she means. They also volunteer at the art gallery as instructors. The trio is part of more than 30 artists who offer free instruction to disabled adult students and provides classes for the general community as well.
Its an art community that cooperates and helps each other, Snow said.
Zagurski agreed.
Theres no competitiveness and the gallery is so peaceful, he said.
It really is a community of artists that involves everyone, said Dreck. Its really like a family to me. Were all one big family that is supportive of each other.
The purpose behind the creation of the Gallery Group is what inspired Snows participation, she said.
I just fell in love with what shes doing, she said, referring to Donna Jackson, who created the Gallery Group four years ago as a place where the disabled population and local community could form a unity and passion for creating art.
The Gallery Group operates through artists who volunteer their time to teach. Artists sign a contract to have their artwork displayed in the gallery, and they offer free instruction in turn for the student artists. Ninety percent of the sales go to the artists, and the other 10 percent goes back to the art gallery. It holds free weekly classes for more than 40 disabled adults, and it also has classes for the general community.
Donna has done a wonderful job, shes building classes and providing wonderful opportunities, Snow said.
One of those wonderful opportunities is the creation of ParkART III, which will feature live music and juried arts and crafts on display and for sale to benefit the artists and the Gallery Group on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. behind the Dr. Robert Smith House in the Robert Smith Memorial Park at 615 North Main Street.
There, Dreck, Zagurski and Snow will be showcasing their own art alongside their students too.
Dreck said ParkART III will allow the students to show off their creativity and be recognized by the community.
People can see first hand the creativity and talent of the students without even stepping into the gallery, she said.
Dreck, who describes her work as minimal abstract, said she was always drawn to helping special needs individuals which inspired her to become a part of the Gallery Group.
Art opens them up, she said. I walk around (the class) going Wow as I look at their art. Special needs people truly are specialeach and every one of them. What they give us is so much more than we give them.
Zagurski said hes amazed by what the art students can create despite the physical limitations they may face with their disabilities.
Its amazing what they accomplish with the different disabilities, said Zagurski, who like Snow, does oil painting. I think people would be surprised with the quality of art in that gallery.
Dreck nodded in agreement.
Its such a good way for them to express themselves, especially if they cant do it verbally, she said. The Galley Group gets them out and allows them to socialize with others like them.
She added that while the program is expanding its variety of classes, it needs more volunteers.
Its really a treasure of artists, some of the artists sell all over the country, she said. Its still expanding but Donna is always looking for more artists to get involved.
For more information about the Gallery Group or to get involved visit or call 786-0057.
Contact Erin C. Perkins at [email protected] or 719-1952.

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