By Brynn Campbell
Struggling artists’ work has found a free home.
Thirteen unique artists join together to form Artists Below the Line, an art community for local artists of limited means.
It began when founders Lisa Morris, Peter Paylor, and Kenny Leighton found a venue for artists without disposable income with the help from the CORE Centre on Pinnacle Street in Belleville.
Artists Below the Line isn’t just about selling a few paintings: this small community has become therapy for some and even given others a sense of purpose.
“You got a 22-year-old young man, who is from Mexico, who has found this community, who has accepted him as an artist, as a friend. He is sitting across from an 88-year-old woman who is all excited because she found this group. They are worlds apart but they have this common thread,” said Morris.
That 88-year-old is Eunice Jolley, who joined Artists Below the Line after she discovered the group in an ad in the newspaper.
“You can only do a certain amount of knitting and embroidery,” said Jolley. “This group has given me something to look forward to. I am part of a group who has the same interests as I do. Anyone that can draw a line should come out.”
Morris recalled how Jolley confronted her about the group and said, “Honey, you have no idea what this means to me. I’ve got a reason to get up in the morning.”
“It’s almost a compulsion,” said Jolley. “You just got to do it. When you get started you can’t leave it.”
The 13 artists will be displaying their work at the first show starting Feb. 29 at the CORE Centre. Each artist has a unique style, not the typical landscape-and-portrait crew.
“Not everyone plans on selling their art,” said Paylor.
“I think for a lot of us it is about the community we are creating and the support. It is about having a chance for some other stuff to be seen.”
Cofounder Leighton will be among those displaying their work.
Leighton uses a combination of many media’s for his artwork: acrylics, watercolors, oils, markers, T-shirt paints, liquid paint and even bingo dabbers.
“I am all about displaying it. I don’t care about selling pieces or anything like that. I just want to have pictures up in legitimate places,” he said.
“They aren’t photos, exactly; they’re not paintings exactly either. They’re somewhere in between. For me it is very therapeutic.”
What started out as three friends discussing how artists of limited means could showcase their work turned into a reality.
“We would talk about art, and we would talk about the venues that are available for artists in town,” said Paylor. “Especially for those who were doing something slightly different. They don’t really have much of a chance to show work in the venues that are available now.”
Most venues in Belleville require a fee to join the gallery, or to hang pieces.
“The people who do paintings or photography have to properly frame their work. The costs a lot are higher,” said Paylor. “It means that people with limited means are shut out, not just of showing the work, but sometimes of creating the work, so that is where it started.”
The founders were later inspired by “Art on the Street,” put on by Kingston Street Health. Kingston Street Health used an old storefront to display the work of people dealing with homelessness and mental health issues.
“It’s not a show about the street; it’s a show for artists,” said Paylor.
“We met an artist from Belleville. He was telling us about his work and that he had participated in the show for a couple of years. He was telling us that he had stopped doing art, and ended up in the hospital. When he started doing art again he felt well. He talked about how doing art was an important part of working around his mental illness.”
After the event in Kingston, the group felt determined to get something underway.
Paylor and Morris checked out the CORE Centre one day, where they explained their ideas and ambitions to the staff. Their ideas sprang into realities and dates were set for when the first show would be displayed.
The 13 artists have been busy preparing for the gallery where their alternative styles of art will be displayed.
The show runs Feb. 29 to March 10. The gallery is located at 223 Pinnacle St., across from the Belleville Public Library.