How did Family Renew Community get so many well-known and emerging artists excited about donating their work for the organization’s annual exhibit and sale of fine art? The answer is not a “what,” but a “who”: Karlene McConnell.
For the second straight year, Karlene is volunteering her expertise and countless hours to curate Artists with Hearts of Gold, which takes place at The Casements in Ormond Beach and online from Nov. 13 to 21. Karlene’s relationships is the local art community allowed her to build an exhibit of 29 artworks. She and other volunteers with art museum experience will hang the pieces in The Casements’ gallery, where they will be on public view with free admission for the duration of the show. Karlene also has donated her artwork, a 12-by-16-inch acrylic on canvas called “Palm Row,” to be sold to benefit homeless families with children.
“Karlene is a treasure. We’re so lucky to have her,” says Diana Janzen, Artists with Hearts of Gold chairwoman and Family Renew Community’s board vice president for development.
Artworks by Karlene McConnell are included in corporate and private collections as well as the permanent Lemerand Collection at Daytona State College. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group shows from New England to the Miami art fairs. This month, Karlene’s paintings were featured in a “River Tapestries,” a solo exhibit at Arts on Douglas in New Smyrna Beach.
“McConnell uses her experiences of the real world to recreate the joy, excitement and even the magic of a walk in the woods. When she is ‘in the zone’ she is exploring the interaction of vibrant colors or making simple marks that mimic nature and are pleasing to look at,” says James Murphy, former art director for the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach.
Karlene’s passion for helping children, apparent in everything she does for Family Renew Community, is nothing new. She spent much of her career as a special education art teacher.
“I did not spend my early years in a studio, instead, I witnessed the unbridled creativity of children, most of whom were mentally and physically challenged in some way,” reads the artist’s statement on her website. “Together we explored collage, sculpture, drawing, painting, line, shape and value. We expanded our senses with textures and colors. We altered materials to make them accessible. The process of creating was our emphasis.
“I now spend my days in an art studio painting, creating, pondering and reaching back to those days of childlike abandon. The fundamentals of line, shape and color as well as the tradition of landscape painters who came before me inspire me and my art.”