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Area woman encouraging a creative community

By JUDITH LINDER-ASHAKIH • Feb 15, 2018 at 6:00 PM

"We all have different things in life that we love to do. I naively chose art. With no portfolio and only a wisp of experience, I had a lot to learn."

That’s how Lynda Stoneham describes the beginning of her journey to combine love of art with a career.

"I finally conceded to my mother that teaching might be tolerable and being an art teacher was a good compromise.”

Since 2004, Stoneham has been the managing director and staff artist for Artists' Open Studio, Inc., culminating thirty years' teaching experience at Elyria Junior High Art, Bellevue Junior High Art and Christie Lane School Art. The AOS serves adults with developmental disabilities under the Huron County Board of Developmental Disabilites.

The non-profit organization provides inclusive painting and ceramic studio experiences to adults who wish to practice their fine-arts skills and to exhibit and sell their art along with local artists who participate.

"My loose description of 'open studio' includes the camaraderie and collaboration that takes place when people are making art together... AOS has never been an art class. There we all share freely, critique supportively and assist one another inclusively, as any fellowship of artists might do."

She adds that those who come to AOS are truly genuine, uninhibited people whose innate artistic skills always humble her.

As a staff artist, Stoneham’s role is to facilitate their unique creative efforts and encourage their distinctive personal styles.

"I believe that ... making art is essential to well being, that art expression is a valid, unconditional, universal language — a God-given privilege,” she said. “I appreciate working with the people I serve."

She says that her college art experiences, though limited, served to stimulate the passion that keeps her learning.

Despite working full time at the AOS, Stoneham is also a member of the Firelands Area Art League continually honing her skills. She praises FAAL's "welcoming and un-intimidating classes.”

“It’s not an exclusive group and anyone locally who has an inclination to do something can participate in any of the workshops, oil, pastel, watercolor, for a very small donation to the art scholarship fund. You can loosen up. Enter the FAAL yearly art show whether you are a member or not. Enter your work in shows — it may sell. The FAAL can be a valuable cultural asset in this area in Ohio.”

Stoneham encourages “pleine aire” painting (outdoors) which she enjoys.

"I feel it's essential to experience nature before you start painting it,” she said.

“This is my fun day: Get out in nature, bring your materials, take photos. I paint what I enjoy, usually with a sense of humor. I have to find a subject that engages me long enough to finish it. Self-teaching is by doing and I like to paint what I'm curious about. It's fun in a group."

As for commitment to the Artists' Open Studio, she explains she is involved with so many things that are deep and time consuming that she hardly knows where to start.

"There is a deep culture here that needs to be respected,” she said. “I've come to celebrate the significance of others, to appreciate people for their value. Each person has his/her own identity, be it in any of the arts."

Stoneham believes that is often overlooked, but is what can brings value to our own lives, if we celebrate the whole aspect of diversity and differences.

Because Stoneham had to work hard to feel confident in the basics to teach art, even after graduation with a bachelors of science in art education, she observes that if you teach you can end up a jack-of-all-trades and have no time to pursue your own interests. However, she adds "encouraging others is what I feel I do."

"People who come to Artists' Open Studio are probably the least inhibited people I know when it comes to making art — they are truly genuine,” Stoneham said.

"An artist may have impressive credentials and fluency about art; another may speak and paint simply from experience; and yet another may not speak at all, except for the beauty he creates,” she said. “Being acquainted with artists like all of the above, I have learned to value each of them and encourage them to become all that they were meant to be."

For more information long onto [email protected] or call 419-668-8840 ext. 1439.

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