I asked Anita Stewart, a local artist and Suwanee resident, why she decided to go into art as a profession. Having made her decision as a teenager, one might consider her answer typical coming from a young person.
“When I was in high school my dad said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t’ go into art,’ Stewart said. “That’s all it took.”
Later when Stewart was in college, one of her professors told her ‘most art teachers are not good artists and most artists are not good art teachers,’ and that’s when she said she decided to “take up the baton to do both.” While in college at the University of Memphis, Stewart majored in fine art and minored in education.
Since then she taught art in the 1970s in downtown Memphis and in Memphis City Schools at the Junior High School level. Through the years her own art has transformed from her first art lessons taken at a nearby YMCA that emphasized realism to giving herself permission to “not capture subjects in complete realism.”
In recent years, she has been delving into sculpting, both real and fantasy. And many may have noticed Stewart and the “bird woman” she created with recycled materials as result of a trip she took to South Africa in 2007 around the area at various local festivals and events.
Stewart is an active member in many artists groups in the area, and her artwork has been displayed at many local venues including Hudgen’s Center Museum. She has received numerous awards for her work, and the once shy child and self-described, high school wallflower is now comfortable speaking to audiences about her art and traveling to foreign countries to paint.
“I love it,” she said. “I have gone from traveling from Duluth to Buford to be part of the art scene, to joining artists from South Africa to paint in Italy. It is so challenging and has made a huge difference in my paintings. I thrive in the contrast. My last travel and paint adventure was this past December to Ecuador and Peru. I loved visiting Machu Picchu and the adventure just to get to a place by myself that can only be reached by train.”
But when it comes to art, there’s no place like Suwanee.
“I love living in a city that values art,” Stewart said, adding that she will always remember Nick Masino in one of his last presentations as mayor when he remarked, ‘a city is only as good as its art.’ “Wow!” she said.
About 14 years ago, Stewart opened a local art school in a small 20 x 20 space. Recently she relocated the school, aptly named Anita’s ArtsCool, to 4264 Sudderth Rd. in nearby Buford, the school’s third location, and she shares the space with Peace, Love & Pottery.
She said she thinks her school and Peace, Love & Pottery make a good combination.
“It has been educating to us as well to see the public wrap their heads around a new concept of fine art classes and a pottery/paint combination in the same space,” she said. “Many folks walk in the door just out of curiosity.”
Anita’s ArtsCool will hold a Homecoming event at the new location on Sept. 22 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. for all students, artists and friends who have been involved with Anita’s ArtsCool and/or Buford School of Art.
“We want to reach as many folks as possible to have them tour our new facility and help us celebrate art,” she said.