Three Idlewild artists part of Black History Month exhibition

'Journey of Discovery' exhibit, at Ramsdell Theatre, in Manistee, features rural Michigan artists

IDLEWILD — Patrons and lovers of the arts in the area have an opportunity to see masterpieces of three Idlewild artists who have the distinguished honor of having their work exhibited at the Ramsdell Theatre/Regional Center for the Arts in an upcoming exhibition.

The exhibition, "Journey of Discovery" is honoring Black History Month and showcasing pieces by Idlewild artists Nicolena Stubbs and George Thomas, as well as the famed work of Paul Collins, who also has deep Idlewild connections, in addition to five other artists representing rural Michigan.

The show runs for a whole month, from Jan. 25 through Feb. 25, but people may want to make sure they attend the opening reception 5-7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4, at the Ramsdell Theatre/Regional Center for the Arts, 101 Maple St., Manistee.

One of the artists, Nicolena Stubbs, is a self-taught intuitive abstract expressionist painter "who often tip toes towards expressionism." She is thrilled to be one of the artists chosen for this opportunity. With art always being in her life, in recent years, it's really taken off.

Always an "artist" in her soul, Stubbs shared how during her college years she supplemented her income by designing jewelry, and sketched and wrote poetry, just to herself.

"During the COVID-19 pandemic, I was forced to shut down my business for over four months. I was anxious and hungry to channel my energy into something positive and expressive," she said. "So, I pulled out old canvases and paints purchased years prior when I lacked the focus or ability to pursue my art due to being overwhelmed by the rigors of single motherhood and life."

Just by painting for enjoyment and as an outlet, her love for creating spilled over into the hearts of others who viewed her work.

"I wasn't expecting it to take off the way it did, I was just painting for myself as a coping mechanism and a way to channel my energy, and when I started getting a few pieces finished, some of my friends and neighbors saw some of my work, like when I was working outside or in the garage. That's when people started offering to buy paintings," she said.

 Stubbs shared about the methods she works with.

 "I love to stretch the limits of a single canvas by playfully incorporating texture with nuance of color. I create areas of stain, thick textured impasto and molding paste, contrast between matte and gloss, various markings, and I sometimes even use recycled waste materials under acrylics to add more layers of interest," she said.

 "I attempt to capture and invoke varying emotions on canvas with creations that are lively and expressive. I find inspiration everywhere and my desire to create is unquenchable. My art is never ‘work’ for me because it relieves stress and gives me the self-expression and creativity I crave," she explained. 

"I want to share my spirit of positivity, of letting go, and continuously working towards not being bound by fear or societal expectations in this life."

The opportunity to showcase her art in an exhibit honoring Black History Month adds a deeper layer to the creative expression within her.

"As an African American artist, I have dual residency as a fifth generation Idlewilder and I'm also from Detroit. I go back and forth between the two, so to have this sort of representation so close to our place in Idlewild, and such an important place historically for the African-American community, it means a lot," Stubbs said.

"I'm also really honored and floored because some of the artists being shown are just incredible, so I'm very humbled to have been selected to be alongside people I admire and respect so greatly. It's wonderful for Idlewild to have that recognition because you have three people on that list who have a connection to Idlewild."

Ironically and coincidentally, when she looked at the list of artists whose works also are in the exhibition, she noticed her uncle was on the list, and he has no idea she is on the list — so the exhibition not only brings a home community connection, but also a family connection.

Black History Month, February 2023

Black History Month, February 2023

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