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Students, instructors to showcase art at Sweetwater

| Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Sewickley Herald
Colleen Sherts poses with a piece of her artwork inside Valley Care Association in Moon Township where she teaches art Monday, Feb. 18, 2013. Sherts' work will be on display along with other artists in an instructor-student show at Sweetwater Center for the Arts beginning March 1. Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald

Colleen Sherts is exhibiting something sweet this year at Sweetwater Center for the Arts' annual student-instructor show that opens March 1 in Sewickley.

Sherts, 55, of Marshall Township, has been teaching art at Sweetwater since 2007, and one of the projects she did with her students inspired her to create a piece for this year's show, she said.

“Lately, my own work seems to reflect subjects that I teach others about,” she said.

For instance, the painting she is displaying in the show titled “Lollipop, lollipop, ooh la la Lollipop”' was inspired from a workshop, “Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice,” which she taught to children as they studied artist Wayne Thiebaud, who paints cakes, pies and confections.

“I had a rainbow lollipop as one of the props for them to draw, and, I just wanted to do it myself, so I did my own version.”

The substitute art teacher in the Pine-Richland School District is one of the instructors whose work will be showcased alongside pieces by students in the annual show.

Sherts, who has a bachelor's degree in art education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, teaches people of all ages, including one class for preschoolers and their parents or caregivers.

“The classes are fun because I have extra hands to help the little ones learn,” she said.

“I love to teach art to children and see them come up with things I never even thought of. I like to see them discover the excitement of mixing a new color and how proud they can be of a successful art work they create,” she said.

She also has taught a variety of workshops for elementary school-age children, Girl's Night Out workshops for adults; and an outreach program in art therapy for adult day care at Valley Care facilities in Moon Township and Ambridge for primarily senior citizens.

“At Valley Care, it is very challenging to come up with projects that they can do with their different physical and other limitations, so I spend a lot of time in preparation to set them up for success,” she said.

“One of the staff there always says ‘Where do you come up with these neat ideas all the time?' That is rewarding when I can share art with everyone. Teaching art is sometimes wanting to stress the process versus the product, but everyone likes to see a nice finished product, too.”

For Sherts, it all began when she gave up her career as a flight attendant, a job she had for 23 years.

“I wanted to use my education and degree in art and my interests and skills, and this allowed for more time to devote to my creative side, gifts and talents.”

Always interested in arts, she said, she rejuvenated her artwork when she started taking classes in pastels with Judy Mattei at Sweetwater in 1995.

“I loved working with that medium because of the rich colors and continued taking classes with her for several years.”

Her favorite subject to paint varies, she said, but many times, she looks to her own photos of places she's been or lighting or colors to inspire her.

She has displayed her work at Clearview Federal Credit Union in Sewickley, at the Sewickley 2011 Fall Gallery Walk and at other locations and was commissioned to create a book cover for the science-fiction novel “The Ediot,” by Nik Smith, which has been published.

Sherts, a member of the North Hills Art Center and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, also has written and illustrated her own children's books which she hopes to publish one day.

Mostly, though, Sherts spends much of her time sharing her knowledge of art with others.

“I like to teach art, and the nice part of that is that it is always different. There are countless ways to teach about famous artists, techniques and concepts. I spend a lot of time preparing what I will teach and always do an example of what I expect my students to do so I can see what they may have trouble with and so they have a visual knowledge of what I am talking about.”

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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