NEWTON — Art can be many things to many people. For the "Tuesday Morning Artists," a collective that meets weekly at Newton's Carriage Factory Art Gallery, it's become a group activity.
That group's work will be on display as part of "The Art of Friendship" exhibit, opening at the gallery, 128 E. Sixth St. in Newton, on Sept. 16, showcasing the work of 12 artists and an ensemble that continues to evolve.
"We always welcome people to try it out and see if it works for them. It's always growing," said Mary Lee-McDonald.
Initially, the group was born from the mutual interest in art shared by Mary Johnson and the late Mae Blythe, who were in a swim class together. Additionally, Johnson noted her sister-in-law was part of a similar group in Topeka, providing the spark to start the "Tuesday Morning Artists" in Newton 11 years ago.
Originally, the group met in Blythe's studio, but it wasn't long before the weekly gatherings were relocated to the Carriage Factory Art Gallery — and more members started to join, with some coming from as far away as Moundridge.
Mediums for each artist vary — from oil paints to watercolor to mosaic tiles — but the members agreed that bringing those different backgrounds together can be very helpful in the artistic process.
"It's a way for us to share information and encourage each other," said Constance Gehring.
"It's a great place to have ideas. They can look at your work, you can look at theirs and critique and give each other ideas. It's very helpful and insightful," said Peggy Wambold. "I think if you look at everybody's work, everybody's work is so different. It's not all the same, and I think that's wonderful because you're an individual, but yet you're an artist."
For many of the group's members, the opportunity to share ideas and gain inspiration from other mediums is a big draw, while member Susan Bartel stated for others it is the only setting in which they will work.
Gathering for food, drink, an appreciation of art and to share stories on a weekly basis, it is also a very welcoming environment. Wambold said it fosters friendship, especially for artists new to the Newton area (like herself when she joined), which the group's most recent member Judy Yates also attested to — getting the artists together regularly to socialize, something that naturally comes with the territory of displaying one's work.
On top of that, the group and the act of creating art itself also is something several members said can be a good escape from several of life's distractions.
"It's therapy," said Jan Schoen. "In this busy world, it's therapy."
Therapeutic as the creative process may be for these artists, they said they are also happy to pass on their knowledge not only to fellow members, but to the community as well. Early on, members noted there were a lot of workshops held to promote art and share their techniques, especially with area youth.
Some of that will likely be broached during the opening reception for "The Art of Friendship" on Sept. 16, with the featured artists — Gehring, Schoen, Johnson, McDonald, Wambold, Bartel, Carol Zerger, Cindy Sigmund, Kathy Waltner, Jennifer Weigel and JoAnn Swearingen Boling — to speak at the event.
Happy to share their work, the artists are also happy to be showing off their base of operations as well, putting it on display as well.
"The Carriage Factory is a jewel here in Newton and a lot of people don't even know it exists, so it's a great way to get the gallery known also," Wambold said.
Entertainment will be provided by the Bob Wambold Trio on Sept. 16 and refreshments will be offered. The event is free and open to all ages, and the exhibit will run through Nov. 11. For more information, visit www.carriagefactoryartgallery.com or call 316-284-2749.