Hands-on projects connect budding artists to Missouri wildlife

Saturday, September 11, 2010 | 9:43 p.m. CDT
Janet Plaisance helps her grandson, Tyler Porter, 4, with a Japanese fish oil painting for his mother on Saturday at Bass Pro Sportsman's Center in northeast Columbia. Plaisance was visiting from Mississippi and said she just stopped by the store on a whim since she often shops there at home.

COLUMBIA — About 70 pieces of Charles Schwartz's artwork — a fraction of the hundreds of drawings, paintings and sculptures the late wildlife artist created — decorate a corner of the Bass Pro Sportsmen's Center in Columbia this weekend.

A few yards away from the exhibit, a collection of drawings from another group of artists covers a display board. Like Schwartz's pieces, the work of students from Lee Expressive Arts School represented animals native to mid-Missouri. The students drew stuffed and mounted raccoons, squirrels, bobcats and rabbits after studying Schwartz in Ann Mehr's art class.


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Lisa Patterson, the operations manager at Bass Pro, said store employees planned the exhibit for months. After Bass Pro owner John Morris's sister suggested the store host an art show, manager David Smith proposed a dedication to Schwartz, who created drawings, paintings, sculptures and films during his decades of work with the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Conservation Federation of Missouri.

While Schwartz's work may be the reason for the exhibit, on Saturday it was Mehr's students and other children who were the stars of the show. As part of the exhibit honoring Schwartz, Bass Pro hosted art workshops for children and adults.

Attendees moved among four stations where they sculpted with Missouri clay, drew from mounted animals, made leaf rubbings with crayons and created imprints of fish through the Japanese art of gyotaku.

Mehr coached students as they rolled paint over a trout, then placed a sheet of paper over it to create an imprint.

After making his first imprint in green, fourth-grader Tayus Jones wanted to do more. The 9 year old followed with one in black and another in blue.

"The only bad part was whenever I started rolling on it, its guts came out," he said.

Patterson said because most of Bass Pro's customers bring their families to the store, the show's organizers wanted to be sure to have hands-on activities for all ages.

"We thought that would be a great continued tribute to Charles Schwartz," she said, noting that Schwartz was concerned with passing on an appreciation of nature to later generations.

On Saturday, the show included painting demonstrations by Columbia artists Frank Stack and Jeff Nichols. A hand injury prevented painter and graphic designer Douglas Ross from demonstrating, but he attended the show and displayed his work.

The Charles Schwartz exhibit will remain on display through Sunday. Mehr will again be at the store from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday conducting art activities for children, while artist Terry Martin will demonstrate working with pastels and photographer Glenn Chambers, a close friend of Schwartz's, will discuss wildlife photography techniques and equipment.

Chambers also will give a guided tour of the Schwartz exhibit at 1 p.m. and State Historical Society of Missouri Art Curator Joan Stack will give one at 3 p.m.

The Charles Schwartz exhibit will move to the historical society after this weekend, where it will remain on display from Tuesday through January.

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