As a Douglas resident of 20 years, Sherri McDonald had wanted a studio on the island for some time for her paper art. She finally found the right spot when she walked by the “For Rent” sign at the old waterwheel building in south Douglas.
“It’s small but not tiny. It’s bigger than one person’s thing,” she said she thought when touring the space. She realized she could transform it into a community studio.
McDonald rented the space and opened Color Wheel Arts to the public in October 2017. “I wanted it to be a community art space as well as provide opportunity to have accessible art. …It’s so important to have artistic opportunities,” she said.
McDonald has transformed the interior into three main parts: the room of inspiration, the classroom, and the main room. The room of inspiration is full of windows and trinkets lining frames. Art books of all varieties fill the shelves, ready for people to thumb through. At the center is a table with a still life display McDonald arranges for free drawings sessions every Saturday from 9 a.m.-noon.
On the opposite end lies the classroom. It’s a well-lit space with tables for students to work on their projects, and all sorts of supplies stuff the drawers. McDonald said Color Wheel has offered all sorts of classes so far, like fiber art, jewelry, paper art, drawing and other mixed-media classes. She hopes to offer more, like watercolor and other forms of painting. She wants to hear what kinds of classes people would like to see and to increase the hours the studio is open.
When she began she recruited other artists to teach classes she herself doesn’t. She’s also met people who had never taught before but were excited about a specific medium, so she has invited them to teach.
“Teaching is a really great opportunity for you as a teacher to investigate an area maybe you don’t normally investigate. It pushes your own understanding and limitations of your art form, so there’s a real benefit to teaching,” she said.
In the main room she stores supplies and features the beginnings of displays of art supply products interspersed with knick knacks. She wants to sell supplies, kits of materials, and local artists’ work on consignment.
“I love having the gathering aspect of community and just having that opportunity,” she said.
The studio is hosting an art party this month, and McDonald hopes to open the space for other events, from staff parties to club events. Already on Saturday afternoons from 1-3 p.m., the LGBTQ Knit Club, which is open to everyone, meets there for community while creating art from yarn.
“I find, as an artist, one of the most important things is to have a space of your own, a studio of your own. Making time is the second most important thing… those are the keys: having your space and making time to do it,” she said.
McDonald brings a unique artistic background to Color Wheel. She studied lithography and papermaking in college. Post-graduation, she apprenticed in book hand bindery. She opened a book binding business in Juneau many years ago, and as she made books like journals and photo albums, she discovered her love of making paper collage landscapes when she designed covers.
“One of the things about living in Southeast Alaska with all the gray and clouds and all that, it was (a) coping mechanism for me to do paper collage of the landscapes…to find that beauty in those days that were gray and cloudy,” she said. Going through her online gallery of landscape collages, Southeast Alaska scenes are easily recognizable, and her use of paper and color is evocative.
“When I’m out and about I often see things in paper…when you’re in your studio working on a landscape collage and then you go outside all of a sudden you’re seeing it: ‘oh look, I have that color paper,’ or ‘that tree looks like that fiber I have,’” she said.
McDonald is teaming up with the Juneau-Douglas City Museum to teach paper collage classes in advance of the 14th annual 12x12 exhibit, this year’s “Seasons.” The youth workshop, for ages 13 and younger, will take place on Feb. 17 from 9-11 a.m. and will cost $43 (children 10 and younger must be accompanied by an adult). The adult workshop, for ages 14 and older, will take place on Feb. 10 from 1-4 p.m. and costs $62. All materials will be provided. The submission fee for entry into the 12x12 exhibit is not covered in the workshop fee. Both workshops will be at Color Wheel Arts located 1112 3rd Street in Douglas.
To register for these workshops or other upcoming classes, or to learn more about Color Wheel, contact McDonald at (907) 209-7173 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To see upcoming classes and developments at Color Wheel Arts, follow its Facebook page. To learn more about McDonald’s art, go to papermountainstudio.com.
• Clara Miller is the Capital City Weekly staff writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.