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Organization of the month: Decorative Artists will help you learn to create

by Nancy Hamlett

If you have ever felt the itch to paint but didn’t think you had the talent, the members of the Sierra Nevada Decorative Artists can show you how to take your desire and turn it into creativity.

Almost 50 members make up this organization that is dedicated to exchanging ideas and information and providing encouragement for all those that are interested in tole and decorative painting.

“You can be taught to paint,” said club president Loretta Graf. “You can learn how to see something and where to put the brush. We teach that.”

Sierra Nevada Decorative Artists meet every third Tuesday from 6:30 to 9 p.m. in the cafeteria at Sierra Pacific Power Company on Neil Road in Reno. However, Graf is quick to point out that the membership is not exclusively made up of Reno residents.

“We have members from Yerington, Fallon, Portola and all sides of Lake Tahoe as well as Carson City and Minden/Gardnerville,” said Graf. “We may come from varied locations, but we all have one thing in common, we love to paint.”

Sierra Nevada Decorative Artists is known for the loving contribution of memory boxes for parents who have lost a child. The Reno Woodchucks, a Reno woodworking club, makes the boxes, which are then decorated by the painters. Each hospital in the area, plus hospitals in Las Vegas keep a supply of the boxes for their patients’ families.

“It’s an emotional project,” said Ginger Porterfield, fund-raising chairperson for the organization. “We get letters back from the parents, and they can be heart wrenching, but their appreciation far outweighs the sadness.”

Members of Sierra Nevada Decorative Artists work in all mediums including oils, acrylics, water colors and pastels, and some members specialize in fabric painting.

“Our goal is to have fun while we are learning,” said Graf. “We are a great bunch of people with a lot of experience that we want to share.”

People interested in learning to paint can attend three meetings before joining the organization. After that, membership fees are $30 per year for national membership and $15 per year to join the local organization. Associate membership is only $10 per year.

“We also do little fund-raising events so that we can bring in the ‘big brushes’ for seminars,” said Porterfield. “You know, the people who have made their mark with a new technique or their excellence. I think each one of us hopes that someday we’ll be considered a ‘big brush.'”

Fund-raising activities may include yard sales, paint supply sales or door prize raffles.

“We try to get everyone involved in the organization, but the most important thing is to have fun while we are learning,” said Graf.

The organization also holds a “paint in” every month, either at Lynn Cushman’s studio in the Johnson Lane area or at Joanne Parker’s studio in Reno.

“These provide for a longer period of teaching where we can share knowledge, share our talent and encourage new painters and younger painters,” said Graf. Sierra Nevada Decorative Artists received their charter in 1998; however, they have been meeting as a group since 1986.

Joining Graf as officers are Joanne Parker, vice president, programs; Denise Chavez, vice president, membership; Teresa Adams, secretary; and Kathy Shepard, treasurer. Lynn Cushman, who hosted the last paint-in, said that for many, painting is a form a therapy – a “stress-buster.”

“Hours can go by without realizing it – it’s that relaxing,” said Cushman. “Plus painting with other people offers encouragement. Then when you have finished something that you like, it instills confidence.”

“That’s because the tole fairy came during the night and fixed all your mistakes,” said Porterfield. “Sometimes, that’s all it takes – a little distance. The next morning, your realize that you did something good.”

The decorative artists are thrilled that the national organization will be holding a painting convention at the Silver Legacy in Reno from Sept. 27-30. They call it a painter’s dream, with between eight to 11 painting classes and exhibits. Then, the International Society of Decorative Painters will hold their convention in Reno in May 2001.

“It’s a coup that this is coming to Reno,” said Graf. “Our organization will be out in full force, the big brushes will be there and a trade floor that makes all of us drool. Decorative painting is a highly satisfying hobby or business, and we hope that everyone who is interested gives us a try.”

For information about Sierra Nevada Decorative Artists, call Graf at 883-6310.