DENHAM SPRINGS — Members of the Arts Council of Livingston Parish are offering what they believe is a way for area residents to purchase a holiday gift that falls into the one-of-a-kind category.
The council's 100 Artworks Under $100 sale began in November and continues throughout December. It's the council's first holiday arts sale at the group’s gallery, 133 Hummel St., Denham Springs.
Council President Mary Felder said directors of the organization decided to hold the art sale for several reasons.
“We just thought that the art sale would be a great opportunity to encourage area residents to visit our gallery and see what we have to offer while at the same time giving our artists a chance to sell some of their works,” she said.
On sale are all original works of art including paintings, sculpture, photography, fabric art and jewelry. Felder said all art on sale was judged or juried by the organization’s directors to assure that the creations met certain standards.
“The art sale has been off to a good start, and we have sold some nice pieces,” Felder said.
Felder said the Arts Council is enjoying a good year, and its members are recovering from last year’s flood disaster.
“We’ve been fortunate this year. We have a number of new members who are enthusiastic about what we are trying to accomplish and I just feel like there is a growing interest in the arts in Livingston Parish," she said. "We think that the art sale is a great way to reach out to the public and invite them to share in some really good art work that is being done here in our parish."
Felder said the gallery’s children’s programs have been especially successful this year, with each class reaching capacity and that some programs had to offer a second class.
The art is on sale at the gallery Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to noon and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Payment can be made at the gallery.
Artists who sell their work will give back 20 percent of the price of the sale to further the work of the arts council.
One of the artists who has pieces on sale is Kirk Prestridge,an aluminum art sculptor. Prestridge creates exotic pieces through what he terms “anthill art.” The sculptor melts aluminum, pours it down an anthill and when the aluminum is set, he digs the piece up, cleans and polishes it, and the result is a shining, unusual piece of art.
“No two pieces are alike. … The molten aluminum finds its way through the ant tunnels and then is set and what you get is most unique,” he explained.
Prestridge also creates aluminum art by placing special round pellets in water. He then pours the molten metal into the water where it adheres to the round pellets. Once the aluminum has set, Prestridge removes what remains of the beads from the metal and the result is a piece of art.
“I started my art career as a photographer, but I heard about the molten aluminum art, watched a video on it, and I realized I had found my creative niche,” he said. “I’m a jack-of-all-trades so I made my own furnace and crucible for melting the aluminum. I started out using coal, but I went through so much of it I switched to propane. I get my aircraft-grade aluminum from a friend who works on wrecked airplanes so I have a good supply."
Prestridge said his aluminum sculptures started as a hobby, but he now works at his craft full time. He sells pieces at trade shows, galleries and online.
One of his anthill arts pieces came out in the remarkable shape of a Christmas tree. Prestridge added bright small lights and put the piece in the art sale.
Photographer Kitty Kuhnert, who has several of her framed photographs for sale at the gallery, said of her art, “I worked for 32 years and I am now retired and concentrating on my photography. I am a three times cancer survivor so I am determined that I am only going to take beautiful pictures. I love beautiful things and I want my pictures to reflect that love."
Kuhnert said she still uses film when she can but that it is getting increasingly hard to get film developed. She said she refuses to use Photoshop to touch up her pictures.
“I’m a purist. … What I shoot is what I get," she said. "It just means more to me when I take a picture and I capture exactly what I want without having to alter the picture."
Kuhnert is a longtime member of the Arts Council of Livingston Parish and she shows her work at the gallery and “any place I can find that wants to show my photographs,” she said.
Adin Putnam, also a photographer, said he began his interest in the subject while in the U.S. Marine Corps. He said he brought back a large shopping bag full of film at the end of his Marine service and his brother agreed to develop all the film for him. Putnam worked for the state for a number of years and now is a full-time photographer.
Unlike Kuhnert, Putnam said he does use Photoshop. He “shoots” weddings, family portraits, babies, engagement pictures and whatever a client wants.
On the arts side, Putnam takes pictures of different scenes, many of Louisiana landmarks such as plantations and places of historic interest. Among his photos on sale are two of the state’s venerable plantations. Putnam has also self-published a book entitled, “Rising Above: The Great Flood of 2016.” His book is on sale at the gallery.
Felder, who has her fabric art on sale, said she enjoys working with an abstract subject and that she likes using colors and shapes to create special effects in her works. She has used photography in fabric works pointing out that pictures can be permanently transferred to cloth through special printers.
Putnam said the Arts Council is a support system for local artists.
“We can come here, meet with other artists and like-minded people and learn from them," Putnam said. "I think the sale is a great idea because it gives others the opportunity to see my work. Artists can get exposure through this art sale and if they sell some pieces, it helps them out.”
Prestridge said of the Arts Council’s sale, “It’s an outreach program. Artists get to show their works to a broader audience. The arts council is doing a great job of bringing the visual arts to the people of Livingston Parish. Art is important to a community, and the council is fulfilling a valuable role.”
Felder said the Arts Council relies strictly on corporate sponsors, patrons, membership dues and grants.
“If it wasn’t for the generosity of local people, we couldn’t operate and I thank all of those who support the Arts Council of Livingston Parish, especially our corporate sponsors,” she said.