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Residents find outlet, transformation through art

On Tuesday afternoon, Keith Bynum spent some time explaining several pieces of art he had created.
There was “Wavy-Haired Girl,” a monochromatic styroprint. There was “City Churches,” a three-dimensional piece of building fronts made of a single piece of clay. There was a watercolor, “Night in the City.”
Bynum never considered himself an artist.
“Once I took this class, I did,” he said.
Bynum was one of 24 guests of Rowan Helping Ministries who participated in the New Tomorrows art program, a partnership with Waterworks Visual Arts Center. Students met twice a month for two hours — for a total of 32 hours — of visual art instruction at Waterworks. They worked with a variety of media and learned about famous artists.
This year, there was an intentional emphasis on collaboration. In fact, Bynum and his fellow classmates presented two large-scale collaborative pieces to RHM.
“I feel so honored and blessed to be a part of this program,” Bynum told the three dozen board members, artists and RHM staff gathered for the opening reception.
Bynum thanked instructor Ingrid Erickson for her time, talent, patience and great smile. Erickson is an art specialist with Waterworks. He also thanked Sheenia Daugherty, the New Tomorrows program coordinator for RHM.
“You always treated us with respect,” he said. “It is an honor to have you as our New Tomorrows teacher. You are the greatest.”
Bynum recounted some funny moments in class, among them, when one classmate told another, “You will never be a great artist like me. I am the greatest.”
“We enjoyed every minute,” he said.
Kyna Grubb, RHM’s executive director, also praised Erickson and Daugherty.
“Art can transform lives,” she said. “We see that through this partnership with Waterworks.”
RHM board members agreed.
“I think this is wonderful,” Owen Norvell said of the exhibit. “I think it helps clients build up confidence about themselves, and hopefully get into a better place than they are.”
“I am so happy to see these New Tomorrows clients express themselves,” Carolyn Barker said. “Everybody has value.”
Barker is a life coach who works mainly with homeless veterans.
“I am just loving that,” she said. “Ships that run aground need help to get back in the water. I enjoy having the opportunity to help these veterans.”
“This partnership is a way to get to know people, and help them express themselves,” Erickson said. “Often, stories come out through their artwork.”
She added, “Artwork is a very important outlet for people, no matter what their situation. It’s exciting for people who don’t consider themselves artists to excel in areas they didn’t know were possible.”
People like Bynum. He was born and raised in Charlotte. His girlfriend, Leslie Saldivar, also one of the artists in the program, is from Oklahoma. They’ve lived in New Bern, Charlotte and Landis, but Saldivar didn’t want to return to Charlotte because of the high crime rate, even though Bynum has family there. They wanted to live in Landis again, but couldn’t find a place to stay. They heard about the shelter and have been there since Jan. 3.
They hope to stay in the area after they leave the shelter, Bynum said, and become RHM volunteers. “We want to give something back. It’s just been good all the way around.”
Bynum noted that his entire outfit — a snazzy green dress shirt, sharp-looking khakis and even his shoes had come form the shelter.
He added that this is the first time he’s lived in a shelter.
“It was hard at first,” he said, “but everything worked out.”
The New Tomorrows exhibition will remain at Waterworks through July 1. All of the 80 pieces of artwork are for sale — priced at $20 per piece — and all money from sales will go directly to the artist. Sold artwork may be picked up after July 1.
For more information about the New Tomorrows exhibit, call Waterworks at 704-636-1882. For more information about Rowan Helping Ministries, call 704-633-5771.
Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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