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Artist with a presence

Editors note: Community Builder is a periodic Q & A series providing perspectives from local people who have been involved in significant change in Southern Oregon. Today’s conversation is with artist Anne Brooke-Hawkins.

Q: How has painting and drawing enriched your life?

Anne: I’ve been painting and drawing since I was a little girl. My father was an artist. He was a lawyer by profession. My grandfather was an artist and was a Supreme Court justice in Michigan. His paintings grace the rotunda in the state’s capitol. My father would set up still-lifes, and we would draw together after school. He taught me a classic method of drawing that I use today; it has enhanced my ability to really see. My relationship with my father was really wonderful, however he would not allow me to take any art classes, afraid that I could take on someone else’s style. There was some frustration there, especially with regard to color. I was a grown woman before I began my intensive study of color, which is so important in my paintings. Dad asked me once how I felt about not being allowed to take art classes. All I said was, “Dad, I sure know how to draw.”

I’m a retired nurse. I have a degree in nursing and then went back and got a degree in art. I taught continuing education classes to nurses. I was also giving watercolor classes and continue to do that today. Art is certainly an integral part of my life.

Q: What about Art Presence gallery in Jacksonville?

Anne: When my husband died, I was beside myself. I needed to get more involved in something, to turn my life around and do something really positive. I met with the Jacksonville historical committee about having some exhibits in the old county jail. They offered me a lease, and the rest is history. We have been holed up in the jail since 2013. Art Presence Art Center is a co-operative of 35 artists run by a nine-person board and me.

It’s been pretty amazing since we started. We have a galleria, filled with handmade gifts, a main gallery focused on fine art, a guest artist area where we feature local extraordinary artists. and an author’s area featuring wonderful local authors who provide us with monthly readings. Upstairs is a classroom, perfect for classes, reading and meeting and a brand-new area we call the loft. The loft provides spaces for five artists who do not have reasonable spaces at home to create their art. This is another way we can help artists with a very minimal rent. A most wonderful part of this remodel is the fact that after eight years we now have water.

Q: Art Presence has as one of its mission statements “to inspire, educate and provide additional beauty to Jacksonville.”

Anne: Thank you for having checked out the mission statement. We refer to it frequently to make sure we are meeting the components. We want to provide not only the finest art we possibly can, but also provide opportunities for artists and patrons to have cultural experiences that enhance their lives. Every aspect of creativity is on the table, and we are gradually accomplishing our goals. We have applied for grants to improve the building, and last year we received money to teach basic drawing to adults and children. Originally, I was going to teach three classes for adults, but with the demand we ended up with six classes of 14 students each. People are hungry for art!

Accomplishing our mission statement is everything to me. Galleries all over the United States are closing. Ashland Art Center just closed, and I’m sick about it. We have to go slow and be careful and vigilant.

At this time there are 35 members of Art Presence, ranging from oil, acrylic, watercolor, fabric art, sculpture, glasswork, woodwork, photography and jewelry making — everything from “whimsy” to serious. Every artist submits an application with samples of their work, and the board is the jury. We have guest artists every month and draw from the art-rich environment of the Rogue Valley.

Q: Is Art Presence open this summer?

Anne: We made a decision as a board to open in July. So we are open now. 19 of our artists have agreed to exhibit and also sit. In order to show, members have to sit two three-hour shifts in the month. Everyone will wear a mask, sanitize surfaces around the gallery and distance themselves. The saddest thing is that we cannot have receptions. I’m sorry for the artists, because it is a time to meet and greet, discuss their process and get input from patrons.

Q: How do you individually and collectively support and encourage artists in Southern Oregon?

Anne: Especially now with things closing up like they are, I try very hard to listen to what we can accomplish for artists. We are seeing a huge need for classes and interest in artists who teach. We have the space and plans in 2021 to make this happen. Artists are not usually rich people. They have to find other ways to have an income, like teaching or writing. The challenging thing is that artists can’t stop creating; there is no way you can stop doing what you love.

Q: How do visual arts enrich the community?

Anne: There have been studies that prove the arts improve everything young people do in school. Whether it be music or art classes, they have a positive impact on the humanities, mathematics, sciences and all classes. It is annoying that these classes that are cut while all sports are maintained. As for my own experience, I feel so enriched by shape and color, all my senses are enhanced, and I have a greater ability to see. My observation of our patrons is so positive, watching their expressions and comments is very exciting, I think they leave the gallery enriched and have taken a moment away from the stunning problems of the day.

Q: Do you ever get envious of musicians who get to share their art with large groups of people? And they get to hear the applause.

Anne: That’s very true, but I don’t think any artist gets envious. The pure pleasure an artist gets from creating their work is enough to keep them going forever. If you asked 10 artists that question, I would guess none of them would feel envious because they are doing what they love.

Q: How did you land in Southern Oregon? What brought you here?

Anne: My husband, Mike, worked for Exxon. His next promotion was to be to Houston. After attending many meetings there, he just didn’t want to go. He looked around for an oil distributorship and found one in Medford, and so we hightailed it up here from Southern California and settled down. We had moved 17 times with Exxon and were delighted to continue to raise our three sons in one place.

I worked as a nurse at Rogue Valley Medical Center and ultimately got into nursing education. I taught nursing for 17 years. I also did the graphic design work for the education department, all the brochures. One of the things I had to draw was a huge poster of meconium, baby stool. And I’ll never forget thinking, “I am sitting here painting meconium. I’ve shrunk to a new low, for sure.”

Q: What do you love about Southern Oregon?

Anne: Well, my sons live here, that’s everything to me. I so enjoy the gallery and my involvement in other things that impact the gallery. I know so many of the people here in Jacksonville. When Mike died, people here were amazing and so supportive. This is an extraordinary community. But I hate the summer smoke.

Q: How can art improve Southern Oregon?

Anne: We have so many ideas, I will be writing another grant to hire a professional videographer to do virtual tours of our exhibits. We will post them online and encourage patrons to take the tour. I know that social media is the key today, and it reaches a wide audience. I want the gallery to stay forever. The Jacksonville city administration has been amazingly supportive of all that we do, especially during this time that we have had to be closed. We are grateful to have such a beautiful venue, and the help that they continue to provide. We have plans to provide scholarships for artists so they can continue their work, take classes or teach.

Q: If your father could see your artwork, what would he say?

Anne: I have often wondered if my Dad were alive and could see what I am up to, what his response would be. First, I have no doubt that he would be supportive and be involved. He loved that I took leadership roles as a nurse. I am sure he would be ever the educator and historian with regard to the art of the day. Second, as for my work, I feel him over my shoulder all the time, asking me questions and critiquing my work, not without corrections, but certainly with very positive comments and compliments. I hope I do that for my students.

Steve Boyarsky is a retired educator and longtime resident of the Rogue Valley. He continues to be involved in educational and youth programs.

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Anne Brooke-Hawkins bio

Anne Brooke-Hawkins has a degree in art. Her award-winning paintings have been displayed in Alaska, California, Nevada and Oregon. She is noted for her drawing skills and vibrant use of color. She enjoys painting landscapes, still-lifes and figures. She has also done numerous commissions, which often include calligraphy.

Anne has taught drawing and watercolor for over 25 years, helping to develop many prize-winning artists. She conducts beginning and advanced classes in her home studio/gallery. She also offers private lessons and has conducted numerous workshops at other locations. Using a limited palette and value study of subject, she begins each piece with an underpainting, developing a unique style.

Anne Brooke-Hawkins works on a painting at her home studio in Jacksonville. Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune