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Ventures in Art 2022 Exhibit

  • January 16-February 19, 2022

West Plains Council on the Arts (WPCA) will host an exhibition of works by eight artist-members of the Ventures in Art group.  WPCA will host the exhibition of works in the Gallery at the Center, West Plains Civic Center from January 16 through February 19, 2022. The Gallery, on the mezzanine, is open to the public during regular Civic Center hours.

“We are excited to exhibit this group of outstanding local artists,” say organizers. “We anticipate a diverse group of pieces, reflecting the artists’ impressions, reflections, and visions.“

The “Ventures In Art” group mission is to encourage and support members in their artistic interests. The group meets weekly to discipline themselves to paint on a regular basis and presents a monthly art activity geared toward developing skills.  

Membership is open to those interested in developing their artistic skills in a social setting. They meet Tuesday mornings from 9:30 to noon at the First Christian Church, 422 West Main Street in West Plains, MO.  Contact Karen Canby via for more information.

A virtual photo display of the exhibit has been uploaded here.

About our participating artists for this exhibit:

Connie Benson

Benson didn’t start painting until she was an adult. She never had the desire until one day she saw an ad that simply said “painting classes.” It turned out to be a watercolor class and that’s when her passion for art began.

The teachers that she has had at workshops, and many artist friends over the years who have shared their knowledge, taught her many techniques to become the artist she is today. Although Benson has won several awards, she paints mainly for relaxation and fun. Of all the art forms she has tried, watercolor is still her favorite medium.

Benson also writes poetry and occasionally writes a poem to match her painting (or paints to match a poem.) She enjoys painting animals, birds, and all things in nature. Her enthusiastic personality glows from within and shows in her artwork. Her book “Poems, Paintings, and Ponderings” is a legacy for her family.

Joyce France

France came from Southern California in 1963 and has lived in West Plains ever since. She spent a lot of time in Arizona and found inspiration in the rich colors of the southwestern desert. Many of her paintings have a southwestern flavor, especially in the choice of colors. France says, “Using a pallet knife is my very favorite method of getting those vivid colors on canvas.”

With a lifelong love of photography, France operated Foto’s from France photography studio for twelve years in West Plains. “Photography taught me a lot about composition and lighting, and by doing my own printing I learned about color,” France said. She painted a bit in the late 80’s and early 90’s then set it aside to manage her business, France Fire Extinguisher Company. 

France started painting again, mostly oils, but loves art of all kinds, including her new favorite medium – abstract paint pouring.

France’s feelings about art: “It’s for everyone, whether you are attempting to capture a scene, an emotion, or a likeness, or if you just enjoy the beautiful  art of nature that surrounds us every day.  Taking a moment to admire the way the sunlight comes through the trees, or the shadows of a vine climbing a wall…………….. that’s appreciating art and that’s where it starts.”

Nanci Harlin

Born in the east where her love of art began, Harlin attended a Commercial art school in Boston after high school.  She eventually moved to the Midwest where she returned to school  and acquired her BS in Art Education from SMSU (now Missouri State University-Springfield).  Harlin taught art in the public school systems in Missouri and Arizona for about 17 years, in addition to serving as judge for the Arizona Federal Junior Duck Stamp Competition, President of the Colored Pencil Society-Arizona Chapter, and serving on the Museum and Cultural Advisory Board-City of Mesa, AZ.

Harlin loves drawing animals, both wild and domestic, and also does western and some Native American themes.  Her work is predominantly, but not exclusively, colored pencil. She also works in other media and has done several commission pieces. In addition, Harlin produces what is called ‘multiple originals’. These are essentially done in a numbered series.  For instance, a wolf and an eagle series of 50.   With the completion of each original requested by a client, pieces are signed and numbered like a print, i.e. 25/50.  Purchasers each receive an original piece of artwork. They are, for the most part the same but may vary slightly, to make each piece unique.        

Harlin’s artwork has received many awards in Missouri, Arkansas, and Arizona art competitions. Her freelance and published works include: Logo for Arizona Draft Horse Assn.; “Cool Dip: – Defenders of Wildlife – 4 printings of Notecards; “Canadian Cruise” – Canadian Wildlife Conservation – Duck Stamp, Manitoba 2000; “Wild Born”- Black Footed Ferret Project –  Arizona Game & Fish Dept. – Prints; Cover Art – 3 years for Meadview, AZ Phone Directory; Hazelwoods – Southwest Fashion & Shirt Mfg.; and Freelance – “Print of the Year” for Furbearers Unlimited (sister organization to National Trappers Assn.)

‘My love of animals inspires me to create intimate portrayals of them,” Harlin says. “I want my viewers to sense the texture of a wolf’s fur and experience the power and intensity in the eyes of an eagle.  To create a ‘sense’ of the animal rather than a mere portrait is my goal in each piece

Lonnie Meuser

A recent transplant from Illinois, Meuser started drawing at a very young age.  He loved to draw the ships and airplanes that were in Life and Look magazines. Taking all the art classes he could throughout his schooling, he received his associate degree in art from Parkland College, and bachelor’s degree in Art Education from Southern Illinois University.

After graduation his father-in-law introduced him to the orthotics field — the making of orthotics, which is best described as a device which helps someone be able to heal or ambulate.  He attended courses at Northwestern University Medical School then worked as a Certified Orthotist for 41 years. Meuser views making orthotics as a form of art.  It requires sculpting of metal and molding plastic to a plaster cast. As he worked in this profession, he traveled to conferences around the country and would fill notebooks full of drawings.

Approaching retirement, Meuser built an art studio in his garage and joined the Danville (IL) Art League where he could work and entered various shows. Meuser’s view: “Art is all around us, from the design of a chair to the design of nature.”

Judy Norton

Norton attended an art class while in Texas as a “Snow Bird,” and enjoys watercolor the most.  She began painting 30 years ago while recovering from surgery. She says it has taken years to semi-master the art.

Barbara Robinette

Though she minored in art, Barbara Robinette dropped out of college to go to work and learn on her own.  She is self-taught in the art of watercolor and is a free verse poet, leaning today towards haiga art, which combines images with haiku.  “Daily Haiga” has posted online three of her haiga.  Remembering that one of her professors said that a painting should be “pleasing to the eye,” she enjoys playing with paint and water to see what might develop.  Her goal in painting and drawing is to send greeting cards to family and friends.

Brenda (James) Taylor

In Arizona they’re called “Desert rats” but that doesn’t apply to Taylor anymore even though she was born there. Taylor has been in Missouri now for 30 years! Occasionally, she still likes to paint things such as saguaro cactus and wear southwestern jewelry.

Taylor enjoys watercolor, pen and ink, and colored pencil, and loves to draw and paint animals. She focuses on things close-up because so much character can be missed without the sparkle in the eyes, the bumps on a toad, the texture of a log, or the hair and feather patterns. Sometimes she likes mixed media for that very reason. Pen and ink drawing is a fun way of creating texture.

Taylor moved here in 1991 and graduated from Southwest Baptist University in 1996 with a BS in Elementary Education. She taught for 7 ½ years. Additionally, she has 22 credits in Art and has loved drawing since she was about 8 years old.

Taylor says, “About two years ago I got involved with the Ventures in Art Group and they are a wonderful group of people. They have inspired and motivated me in many ways!  I hope to spend most of the rest of my life enjoying art!”

Mark Wallen

A Missouri native currently residing in Raymondville, Missouri, Mark Quentin Wallen is primarily self-taught. His studies include time working with Wendy Ziegler at Missouri State University-West Plains; he also credits the encouragement and support of the “Ventures in Art” group in West Plains. He describes his style as somewhere between Realism and Impressionism. His goal is to move closer to realism without losing the mood present in his current works.

The Ventures in Art group meets once a week and has artists using different mediums from watercolor to oils. The goal of the group is to challenge your comfort zone; to push you to learn from different experiences and other individuals. The work exhibited reflects the input from these meetings.

The works of the artist reflect his interest of landscapes of the Midwest. His interest is in old farms and buildings, cars, trucks, trains, and equipment. He likes snow scenes, and skies of the morning and evenings. He also likes working on nocturnes of moonlit skies.

WPCA will host a Meet the Artists event on Saturday, January 29, from 2-4 p.m., in the Gallery at the Center. 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.