Display features art from local school, handmade jewelry

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Art Specialist Kyna  Brockett works with Miles Pollack on an art project.Every month, the Wilsonville Public Library shows the work of a local artist near its New Books section. This May, however, the library benefits from the work of not one or two artists, but many, all of whom approach their work with different levels of experience and different artistic interests.

Communication and collaboration

One of the library displays features art by students at Victory Academy, a school for children affected by autism that is located on Tooze Road just outside of Wilsonville.

Although the pieces integrate different themes and employ different styles to reflect whatever that class was studying at the time, the work is unified by a common theme: cityscapes.

The idea behind the theme was to teach collaboration. The display encompasses a number of singular pieces that depict cityscapes, but students also created a cityscape painted by many artists on a single long piece of paper.

“We were focusing on problem solving and working together,” says Mary Ellen Anderson, an instructor at Victory Academy. “They had to think about how they were going to layer it, and how they could work together to put it together for a united city.”

Instructor Kyna Brockett estimates that nearly three quarters of a student body of approximately 60 were involved in the project. The artists ranged in age from six to 17. A number of them use devices to help them communicate, since they may have little or no verbal skills.

Brockett says that many of them were excited to see their work on display — especially after a trip to the Portland Art Museum.SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Bailey Sanders, a student at Victory Academy, concentrates as she works on a painting.

“I have a few students who had never taken home art before, but who in the last couple years have been really showing ownership of their work,” Brockett says. She mentions one student who used to avoid bringing his art home, but who now insists on having his work hung around his room.

“A lot of that comes from showing them their art is important, and that it is real art,” Anderson says. “Autism makes a lot of things really hard — social things like looking at people and communicating. But a lot of these kids are such good artists. I think it comes from a lot of those struggles.”

“It’s pretty cool to see how they’ve grown, and how art has shaped their idea of who they are,” Brockett says.

Beauty and the bead

“Everybody asks me, ‘How do you sit for hours and hours and just do this?’” says Canby-based artist Jennifer Benz.SUBMITTED ART - Canby-based artist Jennifer Benz developed a passion for the time-consuming craft of seed bead jewelry while she was in college.

Her passion for jewelry-making — especially with seed beads, tiny glass beads that can take dozens of hours to assemble into a necklace or other article of jewelry — can be explained by reasons that are profound in their simplicity.

“It’s the feel of the beads,” Benz says. “They feel so relaxing. You hold them and run them through your hands, and they spin, and they roll — it gives me a sense of wonder.”

Benz has been making jewelry for around 35 years. She was exposed to the craft around age 10 via the Girl Scouts, but it wasn’t until college that she really became passionate about it. Benz was recovering from knee surgery when a friend brought some of the beads over, though she warned ahead of time that Benz would likely be bored by it.

Rather than finding the hobby dull, Benz developed a passion for the work, and after only six months she began to sell her work.

After a few months, she realized that the hobby had blossomed into a credible business.

“It sort of turned into a business behind my back,” she says.

Benz changed her major to small business management. She also began to make jewelry with precious stones; the stones are more cost-efficient, since it can take three to four hours to make earrings of seed beads and up to 60 hours for the ornate choker that she will display at the library.

By contrast, jewelry can be made from precious stones in only an hour or two. She also began to sell handmade clothing, since clothing sales are less vulnerable to economic downturns than jewelry sales are. But the beadwork remains Benz’s passion.

“I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without the seed bead work,” she says.

After Benz married, she continued to pursue jewelry-making as a hobby, focusing on raising her children. But now that they have grown and moved out of the house, she is reviving her business, J.J. Katharina — though profit comes second to the pleasure of making her art.

“If I couldn’t sell any of it, I’d make it and give it away anyway,” Benz says.

Contact Jake Bartman at 503-636-1281 ext. 113 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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