Fall show brings out inner artist in visitors

Two partly completed paintings sit on a pair of easels at the back of the gallery. Together the canvases depict a mandala, a geometric spiritual symbol representing the universe. A few minutes ago, Jean McGrady spotted the easels. She also noticed the brushes and a palette of a variety of acrylic paints sitting in front of the canvases. She was given the chance to add to the mandala.

“I’m quite thrilled,” McGrady said. “(But) I do wish I could paint.”

The fall show, put on by the Beach Guild of Fine Arts, Sept. 18, at the gallery at Todmorden Mills Heritage Site, brought together local artists and art enthusiasts with its new interactive art project.

Guild member Jordana Heney, who prepared the project, encouraged guests, including Jean McGrady, to take part in the activity.

“Part of (the mandala was) already painted, so people will be less shy,” Heney said.

She explained that she teaches adult art classes and that most people are afraid to approach the piece if the subject is too detailed because they’re afraid of ruining it.

“Mandalas are frequently used in adult colouring books. They’re unassuming and people aren’t afraid of them,” she said.

Some of Grethe Jensen’s work hangs in the gallery. She helped organize the interactive painting exhibit and said that guild members readily approved the idea.

“We really wanted to do something that would engage and involve the people who come,” Jensen said. “People can put on a shirt and be an artist.”

This year’s interactive painting segment was a first for the guild. Guests were invited to collaborate on an art piece that would be auctioned later. Proceeds from the sale of the art will be donated to Pegasus, an organization that provides services for adults with developmental disabilities.

The mandala painting continued to evolve throughout the evening as guests took turns working on it. Jensen said the evolution of the painting helps to show that art is never stagnant.

“I’ll put it back on the easel, work on it some more and keep adding to it. It keeps changing,” Jensen said. “It becomes something of its own.”

Jensen said she hoped that the interactive idea would “catch on and continue. … Based on what we learn from this year maybe we’ll do something a little differently, but people seem to like this.”

The Beach Guild of Fine Arts showcase continues until the end of the week. For more information, visit www.beachguildoffineart.com.