NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Though Cathy Kaiser has been displaying her photography in Wickford Art Association exhibits for a few years, she isn’t in the habit of submitting other forms of artwork to gallery shows.
But at the association’s current exhibition, “Leading By Example,” Kaiser is displaying something very different from a photograph — it’s a sculpture of an octopus, made out of paper.
Kaiser created her octopus in a paper sculpture class at Wickford Art Association. She’s one of dozens of artists to submit pieces born out of Wickford Art classes to “Leading By Example,” an exhibit designed to showcase the work of WAA students alongside pieces by their teachers.
Though juror Nancy Gaucher-Thomas chose cash prize winners, the show wasn’t selective. Each artist was invited to display one piece, and Kaiser said that freedom allowed her to submit something she was proud of.
“I think if a juror looked at my octopus, he might send it back to the ocean,” Kaiser said. “But this was an opportunity for me to put a piece into the show that I love.”
Kaiser’s octopus — and every other piece at Leading By Example — is for sale. The show opened on Friday, Jan. 7, and it will run until Jan. 30 at the gallery (located at 36 Beach St., North Kingstown).
WAA Education Coordinator Felicia Touhey said the exhibit is designed to showcase work by the association’s members. The pieces displayed range from drawings and paintings to photography and textile work, Touhey said, and this is the third time Wickford Art Association has staged a student/teacher exhibition.
One of the instructors displaying a piece is artist Betsey MacDonald, who has taught WAA classes such as “Sit Stay Draw,” on dog portraits, and “It’s Our Nature,” which was focused on the natural world.
Nature is a common theme in MacDonald’s work — she was a high school art and science teacher for decades — and the piece she’s showing in “Leading By Example” reflects that. It’s a drawing of a nest, and is titled “Feather Down.”
The name is a play on words, as last summer MacDonald was working on her piece on a boat in Block Island when a white downy feather came swirling down and landed right inside her drawing of a nest.
“It was sort of this little magical moment, even though that sounds very corny,” MacDonald said. “It’s like the universe approved of my drawing.”
The works on display at Leading by Example didn’t have to be completed at the association, Touhey said, but they had to be inspired by a Wickford Art Association class. Each piece is hung alongside a tag with its title, the artists’ name and the name of the class that inspired it.
Touhey said part of the show’s appeal is that it allowed artists to see their works framed and displayed – a particular perk for members who don’t typically submit their pieces to exhibits.
“It’s important to take work out of a classroom and put it into a different context. And when you take the work out of the sketchpad, or off, and put it into a frame, put it on a wall, it just changes it entirely,” Touhey said. “It’s a great feeling of accomplishment.”
MacDonald said the show offers the public an opportunity to see the talent of their fellow community members – and to see the potential in themselves.
“Come to the show, and talk to people that are there, and gain some confidence about drawing. Because I truly believe anybody can draw,” MacDonald said. “Everybody can draw. If you can hold a pencil, you can draw.”
Both Kaiser and Touhey said the quality of the work is very high, and Kaiser said she liked that the show displays the progress and growth of WAA artists.
“It’s all about growth, it’s all about trying new things, it’s all about supporting each other in a class environment,” Kaiser said. “It’s really very welcoming, and this was a welcoming show.”