New exhibit at Downing-Gross highlights local female artists

Natalie Joseph
Contact Reporternjoseph@dailypress.com

Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center plans on spreading a hefty amount of girl power Saturday night. The Newport News art center will open the exhibit “A Space of Her Own,” which features female artists.

The multi-media exhibit includes visual art, photography, storytelling, dance and sculpture. Each element is inspired by a famous influential female artist and the art pieces reflect the need for female empowerment and representation in both art and society, according to its organizers.

“A Space of Her Own” was the brainchild of two cousins, Sharon Grotevant and Richard Press. According to Press, their goal with the proposal was to create a collaborative space for the community to honor artistic women of the past and present. The pair pitched it to Downing-Gross cultural arts specialist Cindy Johnson, who embraced the idea and took the lead as the exhibit’s artistic director.

“I haven’t had that much exposure to Cindy Johnson and the little that I have had was awesome,” Grotevant said. “She is so dedicated to the community and integrating what the center has to offer and what the community needs.”

The planning for “A Space of Her Own” began in August. The creative team worked throughout the final months of 2017 gathering videos, art, music and other forms of multimedia to build an exhibit that brings Press and Grotevant’s idea to life.

“I enjoyed this experience,” Johnson said. “For me, art is always mult-facieted, especially when you can create a space that triggers all the senses.”

“A Space of Her Own” opens Saturday night with a multi-sensory opening reception that includes enclosed spaces, open spaces and interactive experiences for visitors. According to Johnson, people will be greeted with dim lighting as they enter the gallery. The event will begin with a West African-inspired dance performance, followed by poetry and a 10-minute explanation of the artwork before visitors are free to explore the space.

Opening night also will include live painting, a woman dressed up as her artistic inspiration Frida Kahlo and another woman who will host storytelling with pillows and carpets, Johnson said.

“This is not just an exhibit, this is an education for people,” Press said. “It tells the story that you can be what you want to be if you just stick to it. This is an exhibit for every women, everybody.”

Johnson also sees the exhibit as an opportunity for community engagement. Free dance and painting workshops will be open to the public from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m Saturday. Choreographer Danyelle Lassiter Saunders will lead the dance masterclass and artists Terri Ballinger and Alexandra Whiteside will lead the painting masterclass. Register at aspaceofherown.weebly.com.

The center will host more workshops related to the exhibit throughout the month. “A Space of Her Own” will be open through Jan. 27.

Want to go?

When: Opening reception is 6-9 p.m. Saturday. “A Space of Her Own” exhibit is open through Jan. 27.

Where: Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center, 2410 Wickham Ave., Newport News.

More info: downinggross.org or 757-247-8950.

Joseph can be reached by phone at 757-374-3134. Follow me @heynatjo.

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