West Plains Council on the Arts (WPCA) will host “The Ozarks in Reality and Imagination,” an exhibition of works by area current and retired art teachers to be on display from Sept. 15 through Oct. 13 in the West Plains Civic Center.

The gallery, on the mezzanine, is open to the public during regular civic center hours.

Ten area art teachers, current and retired, have taken on the challenge of expressing the theme through their artwork. The members combined have over 180 years of teaching experience. Many have studied with national and international artists. They have been both student and instructor, inspiring many young artists.

Artists will present their works that relate to the Ozarks in reality, or as the area is perceived by those in and outside the culture.

“We recognize that we have an untapped resource in our local art educators. Those years spent encouraging and mentoring young people, while postponing their own artistic endeavors do not go unnoticed,” organizers said. “We’re excited to discover what they will contribute to this interesting theme.”

The exhibit coordinates with this year’s Ozarks Studies Symposium theme of the same title, which is scheduled for September 19 through 21, also at the civic center. The symposium is conducted by Missouri State University-West Plains (MSU-WP).

WPCA will host an opening reception for the Ozarks Studies Symposium and meet the artists event from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Sept. 19 in the gallery. All are invited to attend, meet the artists and discuss the pieces. The exhibit is co-sponsored by the West Plains Civic Center and West Plains Council on the Arts, with partial funding provided by Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.


Kelli Albin: Albin is a West Plains High School graduate who went on to attend Oral Roberts University, majoring in Commercial Art. She earned her teaching certificate in Art and Special Reading from MSU (formerly Southern Missouri State University) while working at Rainbow Colorworks and the West Plains Public Library, later receiving a master’s degree in Elementary Education. She has taught at West Plains Elementary and Howell Valley School and is currently teaching K-12 art at Dora School. She also instructs a class in photography as adjunct faculty at MSU-WP. In addition to teaching she enjoys photography, drawing, painting, jewelry making, and writing/illustrating children's books. She is a mother of two wonderful cats, Atticuss and Molly B.

Lee Copen: Born in South Africa, Copen was drawing and painting the land, people and animals that surrounded her before she even started school; later moving to Chile where her love of drawing and painting continued. In Colorado, she encountered her first art teacher; a talented and gifted artist and teacher who encouraged her to pursue art. Copen studied art at the University of Northern Colorado and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in drawing and painting. After college she pursued a career as an architectural illustrator. Copen returned to college to receive a teaching certificate and has been teaching art in a public high school ever since. Both careers allowed Copen to continue painting on her own, building skills and developing her own vision. She started to paint professionally in 2017.  She lives on a small farm in Missouri; painting the hills, farms, rivers and springs of the Ozarks. Copen is a member of the Oil Painters of America, The American Impressionist Society, The Missouri Valley Impressionist Society and local artist’s guilds. Her work has received numerous awards and honors, including best of show. She is the art instructor at Liberty High School in Mtn. View.

Michelle Carlson: Born in the Chicago area, but living in the Ozarks most of her life, Carlson was introduced to ceramics at about age 8, taking a bisque-ware painting class. Carlson earned a Bachelor of Arts from Western Illinois University, with an emphasis on sculpture. She then studied ceramics at Northern Illinois University with Gilbert Strawn. Carlson was juried into the launch edition of Best of Missouri Hands catalogue, in the days before internet marketing.

Nathan Ferree: Ferree makes functional pottery and ceramic sculpture. Recently his pottery is decorated with relief drawings inspired by weeds and wildflowers from Ozark ditches. His sculpture efforts of late consist mainly of relief wall pieces with subjects from family albums as well as barns and mills from the area. He grew up in Texas County and began learning pottery at Cabool High School where he graduated. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Truman State University and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. He’s been teaching drawing and art at MSU-WP since 2013.

Janey Hale: Hale’s desire to create began when as a young child a women’s group brought an exhibition of old master’s paintings to her hometown of Hope, Ark. Teaching art for over 20 years, she paints full time. Hale has been in a number of juried and nonjuried shows. Hale has benefitted from working with local artists and attending workshops of noted artists.  Hale has been a collage artist and has begun transitioning to painting her subjects representationally, dividing her time between the studio and plein air painting.

Dawn King: King is originally from Wisconsin and has loved sculpting clay since kindergarten. In high school and at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, she explored a wide variety of two and three-dimensional art such as painting, drawing, weaving, fabric design, printmaking, metal and wood sculpture.  A favorite period was studying ceramics under Paul Donhauser, international award winning ceramist. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in K-12 Art Education. She also received a graphic design/production diploma from The Art Institute of Houston, Texas. Dawn recently retired from teaching Art at Glenwood School in West Plains. She enjoys the spontaneity of oriental brush painting, raku pottery, photography, traveling, gardening and living in the beautiful Ozarks with her husband, Jessie.

Karen Pitts: Pitts was born and raised in Oklahoma City. At a very young age, she knew she wanted to teach art. She attended Southwest Oklahoma Junior College, working towards an art degree to teach art. After a break to raise a family, Karen, along with her husband Bobby and three girls, moved to Willow Springs. Pitts returned to college to complete her schooling to teach. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in History from Drury University and now teaches middle school art education with the Willow Springs Schools. Pitts enjoys working with different art media: pencil, chalk pastels, charcoal, oil paint, oil and cold wax, and clay, but her favorite is using acrylics in the abstract style. Today, she can also be found teaching adult painting at Wages Brewery in West Plains and Willow Springs once a month.

Rhonda Richter: Richter has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Missouri, and also studied painting and stained glass for two years at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. Painterly expression and bold color characterize Richter’s art. Exhibits and awards include: 2014 Illinois River Salon Exhibit, 2016 Honorable Mention; Chamois Plein Air, 2018 First Place; Callaway Plein Air “Paint the Town;” 2018 judge for the Harlin Museum Abstract Exhibit; 2018 Honorable Mention, Golden Hills Plein Air; 2018 Bob and Vesta Harlin Award; Harlin Museum Fall Show, 2019 First Place; Callaway Plein Air “Hidden Gems”.

Mary-Louise Tollenaar: West Plains based artist/art teacher Mary-Louise Tollenaar has been passionate about art for the majority of her life. Originally from West Plains, Tollenaar attended Drury University in Springfield, where she received her Bachelor in Design Arts, emphasis in photography, with a minor in art history. During her studies, she traveled and studied at the Santa Reparata International School for the Arts in Florence, Italy, where she was influenced and inspired by the art history, architecture and landscapes of the region. Upon graduation, she went on to receive her Master of Arts of Teaching at MSU. After earning her master’s, she returned to West Plains to start a career in art education at West Plains R-7, where she is beginning her eighth year as the middle school visual art instructor.  She is passionate and inspired by students’ love and drive to learn new creative things, and by the beautiful colors that she is surrounded by every day in the Ozarks.  She resides in West Plains with her husband of eight years, John Tollenaar and their daughter Eleanor. 

Barbara Williams: Williams was born in the Ozarks the year of the D-Day invasion and started drawing at an early age on her own. Art wasn’t offered at school in Myrtle, but a move to St. Louis her senior year offered the opportunity for a full schedule of art courses.  Williams has been studying and practicing art ever since, mostly in painting, drawing and printmaking. Lately mixed-media collage and encaustic paintings have been her focus, and she continues the series of Ozarks family in traditional portrait style which she began in undergraduate school. Williams has art degrees from MSU and Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Ill., and has taught art part time 30 years at MSU-WP. Williams will present at the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival at Dyess, Ark. in October about the origins of country music in Mammoth Spring, Ark. and its influence on rural America.



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