Lake Norman & Mooresville

Artists (re)discover love of painting

Every Wednesday, a group of artists gathers in Huntersville to explore their lifelong passion.

Some of their paintings take them to far-away lands with winding pathways leading up a mountain side; some take them back in time, to that awkward phase when their children were just entering adolescence.

Colette Dorais of north Charlotte was inspired to start the group a couple of years ago, when she took a class at the Cornelius Arts Center.

"I met some people there in the class, and we all kind of clicked," she said.

Dorais converted her garage into a studio. For months, a handful of artists met there each week to learn techniques from an instructor.

But one afternoon last year, Dorais accidentally backed her car through the garage door, destroying the studio. Soon after, without a place to meet, the group disbanded.

"We lost the momentum of getting together," she said. "After a while, I realized how much I missed it."

So Dorais started looking for a new place to meet with retired artists like herself. The first session of Dorais' open studio was on April 20 at Huntersville's Arts and Cultural building.

Dorais said she set up her studio in the Huntersville area because of the lack of art venues she saw between Southend in Charlotte and Mooresville.

For $20 every four weeks, about seven artists gather between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. every Wednesday at the open studio. The fee goes toward the rent.

"It is a great opportunity for retired folks looking to meet up with other hobby and serious artists," said Dorais.

Sierra Davenport, recreation coordinator for the town of Huntersville, said that although a lot of groups operate out of the building, very few are as open-ended as Dorais' group.

"A lot of them will have instructors. But her class is more about coming to enjoy painting," she said.

That format tends to attract artists of all skill levels, said Dorais.

Deedi Sutton of Cornelius said she's been with the group since it operated out of Dorais' garage. She said the group has helped her stay active and social in the community after retiring.

"It means a lot to me because it's a place to go," she said. "It gives you that incentive to have your stuff ready to go and finish those paintings you started years ago."

And although the group does not follow a formal instructor, Charlotte resident Maria Fenesy said her painting has improved immensely since she joined.

"We critique each other, and I like that. We're helping each other out," she said.

Dorais said she's enjoying having that sense of camaraderie around a mutual love of art again. "We're all in the business of leaving a legacy because we're all going to be leaving a painting behind," she said. "We're doing this to be able to relax and expand our talent."