Local artist to show portrait drawings of “The Faces of Haywood Street”

A special art show will open on Sunday. Details here, from Murmuring Grove Studio:

An art exhibit, “The Faces of Haywood Street”, which opens Sunday, March 25 at First Congregational United Church of Christ, is the result of a transformational experience in community building for its artist, Mandy Kjellstrom of Asheville.

Models for the portraits, many of whom are expected to attend the March 25 service and gallery opening, are members of the Haywood Street Congregation. Beyond being a campus of the Central United Methodist Church, Haywood Street is a congregation focused on community, where each person comes to contribute his or her gifts. Distinctions of differences, such as housed or homeless are lost to the reality of celebrating gifts and learning from each other.

On a church-sponsored trip to Nicaragua, Shannon Spencer, Associate Pastor at FCUCC, observed firsthand that Mandy had a calling to use her artwork in building relationships that support community. When Mandy was seeking a way to use her art skills to address community issues, Shannon encouraged Mandy to consider Haywood Street, “In any given year in Asheville, over 20 people die for whom establishing identity is difficult or impossible. The hope in asking Mandy to draw folks is to ‘name’ them in a deeper way. To help folks living on the margins, who spend most of their lives being ignored or neglected, to be seen. To make visible those who are too often ‘un-seen.’”

Mandy notes that many of those who have modeled are people who are “invisible” on the streets. When she draws them, they know that they are seen and seen deeply. Often something emerges in the drawing, some inner character strength, that Mandy had no awareness of in her communications with the model. As one woman recently said, “I didn’t know I was beautiful.” Mandy replied, “Perhaps there is a little bit of what God created you to be in this drawing.” The drawings truly give the models a sense of dignity.

The exhibit will hang the month of April. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday. During June, the exhibit will hang in Mandy’s studio at the historic Cotton Mill Studios,122 Riverside Drive for the River Arts District Studio Stroll, June 9-10. There is no admission fee for either exhibit, but contributions will be accepted and donated to the Haywood Street Congregation and Homeward Bound, a local non-profit providing housing and services for many of Mandy’s models. The drawings are not for sale and will become the property of the Haywood Community. Showings in other venues can be arranged through Mandy’s studio.

The drawings are executed on sized, fine art paper and simply mounted on black matte board, with black frames. The exhibit goes beyond traditional drawings by including a biography of each subject. Mandy drew all the portraits except for one done by Caleb Clark, a student at The Fine Arts League of the Carolinas.

Drawing at Haywood has had benefits for both Mandy and the people she has drawn.

The most extraordinary benefit for Mandy is community. “I am with people who have no pretenses. There is ‘realness’ in this place. I have friends that a year ago I could not imagine calling ‘friend.’ Also, the people at Haywood value my gift of art and that just feels good. Wednesday at Haywood is the highlight of my week!”

Shannon beams at Mandy’s discoveries. “Mandy has broadened her sights in recognizing that friendship can come from many walks of life and can be expressed in ways other than going out to dinner and talking on the phone,” she says.

“She has received an extraordinary gift and it surprised her. She knew intellectually that she can give to folks. But in the humility of sharing her gift of art, it is she who has received a gift of enormity: the gift of friendship. And that’s what the Haywood Congregation is about. It’s being in community with each other to share the gift of relationships.”


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