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Monday, January 21, 2013 8:25 PM

Gallery director eager for teaching opportunity, first show

By CHRIS DUDERSTADT, Herald Staff Writer

Stephanie Williamson could hardly contain her excitement when discussing the events planned for this weekend by the Ottawa Community Arts Council at Carnegie Cultural Center, 501 S. Main St.

Williamson, who is the educational and gallery director for the arts council, will be leading two “light painting” photography workshops and having a reception for her first art exhibit Friday and Saturday.

“The workshops are going to be really fun,” Williamson said. “They are going to be short and very affordable ... It is good for people who already know a little bit about the camera, because what I will be teaching is how to use the manual settings. What we’ll be doing is taking flashlights and we’ll be able to write words or make designs with the flashlights and I’ll teach them how to leave the shutter open for longer times. Every move they make with the flashlight will be etched on to the actual photo.”

The first workshop, Intro to Light Painting, will be offered from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday to people ages 11-17. A fee will be charged. The second workshop, Light Painting for Adults, will follow on Saturday during the same time frame and for the same admission price for those 18 years and older. Those who attend either class are asked to bring a digital camera with them.

“I think they’ll both have their differences,” Williamson said. “My specialty is in teaching children only because that is what my degree is in with art education for younger children, but I like teaching adults, too, because they are more my level.”

Williamson earned her degree in education from Emporia State University and has had a wide range of experience in teaching art since she graduated.

“I’ve actually been teaching here at the arts council since 2006,” Williamson said. “I’m the educational director, which means I run all of the classes here. And, also for a long time, I was the only teacher here. I’ve taught drawing, painting, photography, clay. But now we’re up to six teachers and are offering 17 different classes that have built the program a lot.”

To go along with her time at teaching at the arts council, Williamson said she has taught at Lincoln and Eisenhower Elementary schools in Ottawa and has also had an internship with the Turner school district in Kansas City, Kan.

Williamson took over as the arts council gallery director for Debra Dunlap in November, but credits her predecessor for helping her gain experience teaching the youth and adults of Ottawa.

“[Dunlap] has been a great mentor,” Williamson said. “I kind of look up to her as like a mother figure, I guess. She just took me under her wing and showed me some things and was just a really good role model.”

Dunlap has worked with Williamson to help plan her first art show, a reception for which will be 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, before the Intro to Light Painting class.

“This is my first art exhibit, so I’m really super excited about having a show,” Williamson said. “It has been in the works for like a year, and I’m really excited about the work I have to show. I’m hoping to get into some galleries in Kansas City after here, and I would really just like to keep pursuing that as well as teaching.”

While Williamson is eager for the show and the two “light painting” classes, she also has been able to reflect on her time so far with the arts council.

“It has been a complete joy,” Williamson said. “I started with like eight kids two years ago in this art club I started here, and now we’re up to 42 kids. I’ve kind of been taking on a mentorship role with several of them and seeing them outside of class and helping grow them into the people they are going to become when they are adults. I just love helping kids follow their path that they are meant to take.”

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