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SOS, Fitton create 1st residency

Hamilton (OH) – A new element of a long-standing partnership shines a brighter light on the connection between art and social issues.

Chrissy Collopy – who teaches the popular Creative Aging Painting classes at the Fitton Center for Creative Arts – earned the inaugural artist-in-residence position created by SOS ART and the Fitton Center.

“I’m very thankful for the opportunity. It’s exciting. It’s an honor,” Collopy said. “This is the first time SOS ART and the Fitton Center have had an artist in residence. This is the first time I’ve been an artist in residence. I love the connection between art organizations and social justice. Both are really about community.”

SOS (short for Save Our Souls) ART out of Cincinnati encourages, promotes and provides opportunities and venues for the arts as dynamic vehicles for peace and justice, for change, and for a better world.

Founder Saad Ghosn said funding from the estate of Gloria McConnaghy - the late artist, collector and original proprietor of The Little Mahatma shop in Cincinnati was a dedicated supporter of SOS ART - enabled the creation of the artist-in-residence program.

Working with the Fitton Center was a logical step to amplify the impact of her gift.

“I very much appreciate all the interactions we’ve had with the Fitton Center over the years,” Ghosn said. “The connection is strong. We don’t really have a gallery space of our own. For these artists in residence, we’ve committed to showing their work, so we wanted to partner with somebody who had the capacity to do that.

“It’s a win for both organizations and – we hope – for the artist.

Collopy officially started her three-month residency April 1, but began building a body of work on the theme of Food Insufficiency/Hunger a few weeks prior.

While both SOS and the Fitton Center offer limited studio space for the resident artist, there is flexibility. Collopy is doing most of her work from her home studio.“The residency is wonderful in that way,” she said. “I can still teach classes and take care of home life, while painting on my own schedule.”

Collopy plans to create a series of five to 10 acrylic-on-linen paintings during her residency entitled You Are NOT What You Eat, specifically still-life paintings of the food often consumed by disadvantaged people. Think of convenient and affordable items like generic brands, spoiled fruits and vegetables sold at a discount or fast food.

The first public viewing of the paintings will be May 28 – World Hunger Day – at the Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church (103 William Howard Taft Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45219).

The hunger theme resonated with Collopy on a personal level.

“Having experienced poverty as a child and into adulthood, I understand the shame of not having adequate resources to buy nutritional foods,” she said. “The feeling of hunger and the dependency on government subsidies was the norm in my family. I always had the blue lunch ticket, different than the yellow of my fellow classmates.

“You have to eat, but there are a million people in Ohio who are food insecure; 380,000 of those are children. Right now, I feel like I am in a privileged place so I want to be respectful and genuine, but it’s a real problem for a lot of people.

“I hope I can bring my experience to this without getting too depressing. It’s not an easy subject to get into. I try to have a balance. Some of it’s going to be colorful and fun. Even though the content might not be joyful and light, I still try to bring a vibrant energy and style to the paintings.

“It's my hope to inspire a relief of this shame that is stigmatized by the consuming of the less-than-desired foods caused by not having the regional availability – living in a food desert - or the resources available to afford healthy foods.”

Collopy also will teach a free community workshop at the Fitton Center from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 4, as part of her residency. Building on the Food Insufficiency/Hunger theme, participants will learn to make collages using food wrappings, boxes, and magazine cut-outs of food. Admission is free, but registration is required. Click here to reserve your spot.

“Hunger is an important issue,” Ghosn said. “She really hit the spirit of what the residency is trying to accomplish. All the work we do is to empower our local artists to use their voice, their creativity, to start conversations about important issues.

“Give an artist some time and an opportunity to delve into the work that’s important to them. Take away some of the obstacles to creating - like providing a space and an honorarium for supplies – and they will start conversations in amazing ways. This is exciting.”

Collopy’s You Are NOT What You Eat paintings, as well as pieces by the collage workshop participants, will appear together in an exhibition in the Community Gallery at the Fitton Center. The exhibitions dates are to be announced, but participants and guests will be invited to bring non-perishable food items for donation to area food banks.

For more information or to apply to be the next artist-in-resident (from June 1 to September 1), please visit the Fitton Center/SOS ART artist-in-residence web page here.

The Fitton Center for Creative Arts is located at 101 S. Monument Avenue on the Riverfront in downtown Hamilton, Ohio.

Building Community Excellence through the Arts and Culture

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