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‘Spiritual Group of Five’ featured this month at CCAC

‘Spiritual Group of Five’ featured this month at CCAC
The featured art display for the month of September at the CCAC is entitled “A Spiritual Group of Five,” and it will include an art collaboration by Des Moines area artists Jan Davison (not pictured), Judy Sebern Beachy, Renee Watkins, Carolyn Larson and Beth Hirst. There will be a reception for the five at the art center starting at 5 p.m. Friday. (Press photo James Grob)
  • Mixed media art, acrylics and collaborations by artists Jan Davison, Judy Sebern Beachy, Renee Watkins, Carolyn Larson and Beth Hirst will be featured in September at the Charles City Arts Center. (Photo submitted.)

  • Mixed media art, acrylics and collaborations by artists Jan Davison, Judy Sebern Beachy, Renee Watkins, Carolyn Larson and Beth Hirst will be featured in September at the Charles City Arts Center. (Photo submitted.)

  • Mixed media art, acrylics and collaborations by artists Jan Davison, Judy Sebern Beachy, Renee Watkins, Carolyn Larson and Beth Hirst will be featured in September at the Charles City Arts Center. (Photo submitted.)

By James Grob, jgrob@charlescitypress.com

Charles City arts patrons will get five artists for the price of one this month.

‘It’s going to be a very interesting show,” said Charles City Arts Center Director Jacqueline Davidson.

The featured art display for the month of September at the CCAC is entitled “A Spiritual Group of Five,” and it will be an art collaboration by Des Moines area artists Jan Davison, Judy Sebern Beachy, Renee Watkins, Carolyn Larson and Beth Hirst.

There will be a reception for the five at the Arts Center starting at 5 p.m. Friday.

“We’re all connected through Westminster Presbyterian Church,” said Beachy. “It’s kind of a neighborhood church, we all live close by and are all affiliated with the church one way or another. That’s how I’ve gotten to know most of these women.”

Beachy grew up in Charles City, the daughter of John and Jean Sebern. A member of the CCHS Class of 1974, she has had her art on display in the CCAC in the past.

“She has always remained in contact with the Arts Center,” said Davidson. “She told me that if we ever had an artist who dropped out at the last minute, that she had four friends who could do a show here.”

Lo and behold, it happened. The five women will set up their artwork on Wednesday.

“These women play an important and inspiring role in my life,” Beachy said. “Working on art projects with them at Westminster Presbyterian Church has been a highlight over the last several years.”

Beachy loved art as a child, but didn’t get serious until she took a watercolor class when she was in her 40s. This led to a journey of exploration into drawing, charcoal, pastels, acrylics in classes from Des Moines artist Mary Muller.

She started using her creativity at her church in 2000, with a piece she did for an Easter show.

“The most meaningful part of being an artist is connecting with the creative spirit from which ideas flow to me and through me,” she said.

Davison has also had her art on display at the CCAC, just last year. She is a lifelong artist who holds a bachelor of fine arts degree from Drake University. Most of her working career was spent as a freelance graphic designer, but she also served as director of communications at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Des Moines before retiring in 2014.

She currently serves on the church’s visual arts committee, and has volunteered as an art instructor at the Iowa correctional institution for women in Mitchellville, and she uses her art to raise money for charitable causes.

Hirst also has a Charles City connection, as her daughter and son-in-law, Hayley and Wesley Mueller, are former residents. She began painting with acrylics five years ago, soon after her retirement from the Iowa Department for the Blind, where she was assistant library director. A graduate in theater arts from Drake University, she has acted on numerous Des Moines stages.

Larson’s “specialty of the moment” is china painting. Her inspiration to paint china came from her maternal grandmother. As a young woman back in the early 1900s her grandma painted china as a hobby. Larson started painting in the 1980s and after a yearslong break she resumed in 2000.

Larson graduated from the University of Colorado in 1973 with a degree in anthropology/archeology. She lived in Japan for three years and in 1990 returned to Des Moines, where she grew up.

“It gives me great pleasure to give a hand-painted piece to a friend or family member as a gift, and when I do, I think of Grandma,” she said.

Watkins is a Los Angeles native. She has been drawing, painting, sculpting and just about every other type of crafting her entire life. She has taught both adults and children various forms of art and sometimes enjoys that more than she enjoys creating her own.

Watkins does commissions, has taught private and group lessons and occasionally teaches classes to individuals participating in Family Promise of Greater Des Moines, which is housed at Westminster church.

“Sometimes there is a lot of meaning behind my work, and sometimes I just pushed around some pretty colors until it turned into something that made me happy,” she said. “I reject the idea that all art needs to carry meaning. ‘I like it’ is reason enough.”

Beachy chose the title of the collaborative display, and said she borrowed from a Canadian art team she’s aware of which calls itself the “Group of 7.”

“We had to call ourselves something,” she joked. “I thought about calling us ‘The Church Ladies,’ but decided ‘spiritual group’ would be better.”

She said she picked the word “spiritual” because the group’s connection from the work they do together with their regional art committee at church “is spiritual to most of us.”

“The show has to do with our connection with ourselves and with higher spirits, and the paintings will show that,” Davison said.

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