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Find the artist in you

By JUDITH LINDER-ASHAKIH • Oct 18, 2017 at 7:00 PM

"There are a group of very talented people in our area. Come out and join them.” 

This invitation is made to all budding local artists by the Firelands Area Art League (FAAL) founder, Elnor Hilty. She is inviting all to the 43rd annual show at the Ernsthausen Performing Arts Center at Norwalk High School. The show will take place April 12 to 14. 

Hilty founded the FAAL after she began creating watercolor paintings as a hobby with a group of eight or nine friends in New London. The first art show was held in the park in 1975.

Today, the show features much more than just watercolors and fine arts. Pastel, oil, ink drawings, jewelry, pottery, photography, printmaking and more are included. Each meeting has either a speaker or a workshop in one of those painting styles. Some are outdoor painting sessions.

Hilty's take-off as a watercolorist was precipitated when her daughter's school art class ended.

“I had bought all these art supplies and she didn't want to continue. I decided to use her supplies even though I had always been more interested in music,” Hilty said, adding she even imagined herself becoming a music teacher.

“After I had painted with the New London group for a few years and taken some lessons from Franklin Bates, of Lodi, he passed away. He had encouraged me to teach however and thought I should start a guild in this area since the nearest, the FAVA, was in Oberlin.”

After Bates' death, Hilty took more lessons from Ed Leach in Elyria.

“This group began meeting for coffee afterwards, getting to know each other,” Hilty said.

She continued painting and got a job framing in a Sandusky gallery and, as time passed, married one of the members, Bob Hilty.

They soon decided to “make our living with art,” travelling wherever the shows popped up.

“We joined artists who did shows in high-scale malls in large cities east of the Mississippi,” Elnor Hilty said. “Shows started in January in Florida (and then in) April we'd go to North or South Carolina, then up to Cleveland, Chicago, Waukeegan, Minneapolis, then back to Pennsylvania, New York, up to Maine and to Baltimore, Maryland. We'd be home in Ohio for Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

The couple kept to that travelling schedule for seven years. 

During those years, Elnor and Bob painted constantly, even painting watercolors on a 9-by-12-foot carpet in front of their displays exhibited in malls. Elnor Hilty said it drew interest in their work and promoted sales, as well as their own expertise in the art.

“We also did outdoor and wildlife shows later on in Michigan and Maryland,” she said. “I started painting songbirds so I could get into the wildlife shows. We were forced to paint. We painted all the time because there weren't prints at that time. The method was too expensive. We also did some two-man shows in some galleries around the area."

When asked how many paintings she might have done in her lifetime, Hilty said that without keeping a record she was sure they did thousands “and we did our own framing.”

“The goal of the FAAL is education. We want to help people grow in their art medium and educate the general public by exposing them to art with yearly public exhibitions. These works are priced to suit every kind of interest, pocketbook or budget,” Hilty said.

“Money raised from the art lessons and the shows goes to an art scholarship each year to a high school student who intends to study art in college. The categories have expanded to game design and art therapy teaching art and others. Maddie Weyer, of Milan, was this year's winner. Members have been participating in Gary Kelly's Imagine Norwalk festivities all year. Flickinger Insurance has provided a front window for many years for a rotating monthly display of our members’ works.”

Hilty explained support and members also come from Erie County. Pierre's Quickprint has collaborated with FAAL members for samples of their art which has been used to create the 2018 Celebrate Sandusky bicentennial calendar. The proceeds will go to charity. Calendars can be found at Pierre's and also through the FAAL.  

For more information, call 419-668-0569 or visit the Firelands Area Art League Facebook page.

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