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Leading the Way

Featured Photo from Leading the Way

Casselberry art icon paints a picture of her colorful life and commitment to other artists

Cheryl Jones Evans has been helping fellow artists open doorways to their creativity for more than two decades. For most of that time, her home base has been the cozy confines of the Casselberry Art House, nestled within Lake Concord Park. So it was only fitting that Cheryl was asked to curate a recent show at the Art House, titled Casselberry’s Door to Creativity.

The August exhibit showcased 2-D and 3-D work by alumni of the Central Florida Artist’s Way Group, which Cheryl led for 18 summer sessions at the Art House.

Cheryl, a visual artist and Casselberry resident, founded the group in the mid-1990s after reading The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.

Artist’s Way groups around the world study and adhere to the philosophy of the international best-selling book, written by Julia Cameron. The Central Florida group met at Cheryl’s studio for several years and then moved to the Art House.

The show’s doorway theme resonated with Cheryl and the alumni for figurative and literal reasons.

Artist’s Way participants, known as creatives, explored their artistic sides when they walked in the front door of the Art House and then shared their art with the community when they walked out, Cheryl says. Also, the group recently donated more than $1,000 toward the purchase of a brand-new front door for the Art House itself, which was installed in August.

“Contributing to that door was perfect,” says Cheryl, who likens the supportive group to a tribe. “For a lot of us, it was the doorway to our careers.”

The group’s members – a mix of emerging and professional artists – raised the funds by auctioning their artwork at the end of each 13-week summer session. One year, participants painted and added their artistic flair to umbrellas. Other sessions have painted and embellished kites, clocks, and footstools.

“We have painted anything that will hold still and that we think we can sell,” Cheryl jokes.

“Part of the philosophy of the Artist’s Way is that symbiotic relationship, both giving and receiving,” Cheryl adds, noting that the Art House never charged the group a rental fee for using the venue.

Unfortunately, Cheryl was not able to facilitate an Artist’s Way session this summer due to health issues. Cheryl, 64, suffered a heart attack in 2009 and is now in heart failure. Yet, with the support of family and friends and the help of hospice care workers, she is still living life with zest.

Mary K. Shaw, a 2008 alumni of the Artist’s Way, has nothing but praise for Cheryl as the group’s facilitator.

“I grew as an artist in those 13 weeks due in large part to Cheryl’s ability to create a safe environment for people to spread their wings,” Mary says. “She knows the power of creative expression, and she’s not afraid to add a dash of humor to the mix. I admire Cheryl for her effusive joie de vivre and her tenacity.”

Cheryl managed to stay busy even while recovering from her heart attack. She earned a bachelor’s degree in arts administration online from the University of Massachusetts.

“It was an I-did-it moment at a time when there were so many things I couldn’t do,” she says. “It was a cool thing.”

Recently, Cheryl has begun experimenting with a new-to-her medium – clay. Her sculptures and layered paper pastel work have been included in recent group shows at Casselberry City Hall, in Orlando, and at Osceola Arts in Kissimmee, where she won an award of distinction. Last year, Cheryl even took a trip to New York City to visit its world-class art museums.
“I really have had the most spectacular, creative life,” she says.

To learn more about Cheryl’s art, visit CherylJonesEvans.com. For details about Art House exhibits and events, visit 
Casselberry.org.

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