Learning through doing

Published 8:38 am Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Art exhibit offers opportunities for visitors to create abstract art


Community Arts Center 

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Abstract art is challenging for many people. The lack of a defined subject matter can cause viewers who are used to more traditional art forms to question the purpose, meaning, or authenticity of abstract artwork. Why did the artist create work like this? Is it really art?

During the “Open to Interpretation” exhibit, on display through May 25, the Community Arts Center hopes to inspire the public to wrestle with those questions through hands-on learning opportunities.

Abstract workshops

The Arts Center is hosting two abstract painting workshops, one for children and one for adults. Each two-week workshop will provide an introduction to the basic techniques and philosophies of abstract painting. The kids workshop meets 4-5 p.m. beginning today (Tuesday, April 17) and April 24, and is open to third- through eighth-graders. Creative Director Brandon Long will use pieces in the exhibit to illustrate abstract art concepts, then invite students to create their own work.

“Kids really resonate with abstract art,” says Long. “I think kids instinctively react emotionally when they see artwork. They are able to dial into how art makes them feel, not just what it’s supposed to look like. This makes abstract artwork a natural fit.”

The adult workshop will be Monday, April 23, and April 30. It will focus on the role of composition and the impact of color choice. Students will each work on a 18” x 24” canvas over the course of two weeks. No previous painting experience is required and all materials will be provided.

Carolyn Ellis explores the hands-on activities that accompany the “Open to Interpretation” exhibit up at the Community Arts Center.

Exhibit Interactives

In addition to the formal workshops, visitors to the exhibit have the opportunity to explore abstract artwork through a series of three hands-on interactives. Long created three art-making stations on the second floor of the Arts Center, each focused on a different element of abstract art.

One station introduces visitors to composition, or the process of arranging the visual elements in a work of art. Although people immediately think of painting in conjunction with abstract artwork, Long says that collage is an ideal medium to explore composition. 

“Collage is a favorite of mine,” says Long. “It’s the quickest, most affordable art medium that I can think of.  Collage works well for abstraction because you can readily access a lot of colors, shapes, and patterns without having to mix paint.  The improvisational nature of collage also allows you to try several different arrangements before you commit to gluing it down.”

A second station challenges visitors to create abstract artwork based on everyday objects, such as a tin of mints, a drink cup or a technicolor robot. 

Long says that the goal of the exercise is to create artwork inspired by the object — rather than artwork of the object. The guided prompts that accompany the exercise encourage visitors to think about how the object makes them feel and to consider how to evoke those same feelings in a viewer that might not know the source of the inspiration.

The final abstract art station is a guided exercise. Sometimes the most intimidating factor in beginning abstract art is knowing where to start. For this activity, visitors randomly select six instruction cards from a stack and then follow the directions on the cards. Directives include things like “draw three triangles that somehow touch each other” or “draw a big oval that falls off the edge of your paper.” 

After following the directions, visitors are invited to color in their design using complementary colors for strong impact.

Long hopes that these simple hands-on exercises will help visitors to feel more comfortable with the techniques of abstract art and that creating their own artwork will increase visitors’ understanding and enjoyment of the show.

The educational opportunities accompanying “Open to Interpretation” are made possible by a grant from Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Kentucky. 

Executive Director Niki Kinkade says, “The grant we received from Toyota allowed us to invest additional resources in creating opportunities for the public to learn more about the exhibit. We’re excited to make our exhibits more interactive!”


“Open to Interpretation” will run through May 25 during regular business hours of 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, for a suggested donation of $5. There is no cost for the hands-on exhibit activities.


• Kids Abstract Painting Workshop, 4-5 p.m. today and April 24, cost is $20, for grades 3-8 

• Lunch with the Arts: “I Come From,” a discussion with Robby Henson, noon Wednesday, cost is $5 at the door 

• Adult Abstract Painting Workshop, 6:30-8 p.m. April 23 and 30, instructed by Brandon Long, cost is $30 

• Starry Night Studio: Boot Bouquet, 7-9 p.m. April 24, instructed by Paula Whitaker, cost is $28 

• Kids Visual Arts (Winter Session 4), 4-5 p.m. Wednesdays, April 25-May 16, cost is $40, for grades k-3

• Paint-Your-Own Piggy Bank, 4-5 p.m. April 26, cost is $20, for ages 5+ (adults welcome)