Featured Member Artists: Colleen Beyer and Wesley Stewart
It was a pleasure to exit my quarantine existence last Friday to meet with Colleen Beyer and Wesley Stewart to learn about their Public Art practice. Of course, Rhian Swain with RedWolf joined us, mask and camera ready to document this creative couple and 2 examples of their work.
We agreed to meet at the Calhoun Expressway underpass on Crawford Ave in Historic Harrisburg. This Public Art Project on Georgia Depart of Transportation (GDoT) Property is…almost…finished. It’s a giant project; the underpasses on Eve and Crawford Ave are massive, with sloping sides leading up to the concrete stanchions that support the expressway. Colleen painted the sloping sides; a whimsical design of plants flowers vines and bees, that lead up to the intricate black and white graphic designed uprights painted by husband Wesley Stewart. Colleen and Wesley greeted us, with proper socially distancing employed, to talk about the challenges they experienced when it came time to put brush to concrete. They are both super detailed in their practice. They painted the spaces to be seen closeup, not just from a car. Wesley pointed out a smudge of grey where he fell off the tall ladder trying to reach a final swipe of black. He confessed it was a split-second decision made in lieu of moving the ladder. Thankfully, he wasn’t hurt and even though the grey stain of shame bothers him, I could barely see what he was talking about.
Next we drove over to Hillside Park on upper Telfair Street in Harrisburg. This art project entailed decorations for the chain-link fence surrounding the park. The design was chosen by a committee of the Harrisburg/West End Neighborhood Association. The public art piece is made up of “Put-in-Cups” chain link fence art. The colorful cup designs decorate a plain fence into a group of cheerful flowers that make this neighborhood gathering place very welcoming. A learning experience for the couple was that the old fence was not a standard size and had a bit of wear and tear. Attaching the Put-In-Cups required a bit of elbow grease along with an artistic eye.
Colleen and Wesley met in college, Georgia Southern, and their first team project was “Eagle Nation on Parade” created during Graduate School. They graduated, married, and now continue to create together, as well as separately. Colleen teaches art at Harlem High School and Wesley serves as Adjunct professor at local colleges. I enjoyed the Harlem High School Art Show at the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art earlier this year and I love to see Wesley’s sculpture on the first floor of the Municipal Building in the back Tax Hallway. He also created two of the popular Traffic Boxes in Augusta.
What next? More Public Art. Wesley and Colleen are committed to Public Art. They continue to apply for local and regional calls as a couple, individually, or part of a larger Artist Team. Wesley is part of a team working on the Beacon Station Art Project. The project is moving along, so we can expect to attend that unveiling in the coming year: hopefully, masks and social distancing free.