CMU grads featured in June Art Reach exhibit

Patrons of Mount Pleasant's monthly Art Reach of Mid-Michigan exhibits can get a glimpse of Central Michigan University  talent as the June showing will feature art from graduates.

The “Reuse, Recycle, Reinvent" exhibit displays an environmentally-friendly theme, said artists Laura Coffee, Lavana Shurtliff and Jessica Stefani, who integrated recycled media into their work. The exhibit opens to the public on Monday and an opening reception for the gallery is scheduled for Thursday. The reception will allow attendees to meet the artists and enjoy free refreshments.

“The motivation is to show that you don’t have to use specific materials in artwork, it can live in whatever is available to express your artistic vision,” Coffee said.

Coffee incorporates paper that piles up around her home in her pieces, using phonebooks, magazines, wrappers, and scraps from cutting and stretching canvases to bring unconventional textures and three-dimensional aspects to her art.

“As someone who has worked at a food co-op, you learn more about production and environmentalism in general,” said Coffee, who is the marketing and outreach manager for Green Tree Cooperative Grocery. “What we throw away on a daily basis is kind of staggering. I found myself looking around my home at things that pile up day-to-day and I thought, ‘What can I do with this?’ That inspired me to work with it in my art.”

Stefani uses yard and kitchen waste in her pottery, which when fired in a kiln creates patterns and colors unique to each piece. She centers her work on traditional creations, using traditional firing techniques and designs.

In 2013, she graduated from CMU with a degree in art education centered on 3-D design and ceramics.

Pieces submitted by Shurtliff use phone parts and animal bones coupled with her glass blowing skills to create her sculptures.

“My mother died last fall, I think some of the pieces are working through the grieving process and that idea of holding on to what was once living, trying to hang on to those things,” Shurtliff said. “It takes some time (to create). I have to find the correct materials and components to complete what I have envisioned.”

Shurtliff has over 30 years of experience creating and selling jewelry, and has worked full-time for the last 15 years after learning how to lampwork glass in jewelry designs. She did this while earning her bachelor's of fine arts at CMU.

Art Reach is a community arts organization created to showcase local art in Mount Pleasant. Store Coordinator Kim Bigard said the organization sends out a call to artists early in the summer to look for monthly exhibits for the following year.

“We look through portfolios and pieces and then we match exhibits with what would be appropriate for the gallery that month,” Bigard said.

She added that in the summer months, they have more room to display art, allowing for three-dimensional pieces that require more space.

Shurtliff and Coffee both said they have been working on their gallery submissions for close to a year. For Coffee, the process is stop-and-go, requiring her to put her projects on-hold for days or even weeks while layers of adhesives bind the materials in her works together.

“Sometimes you feel like you have to make things, you have all these ideas in your head and you’ll keep thinking about it until you get around to making it,” Coffee said. “It can be very stressful too, especially if you have an idea and it doesn’t come out the way you imagined it. It’s always worth it when you finish honestly, stressful as it can be, it is enjoyable.”


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