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'Creature Feature', delightully untamed art at Middle Way Café

Laurel Andrews
“Creature Feature,” will hold its opening reception at Middle Way Café on Friday, Sept. 14, between 6 and 8 p.m., and it will run through Oct. 9.
Laurel Andrews photo
“Creature Feature,” will hold its opening reception at Middle Way Café on Friday, Sept. 14, between 6 and 8 p.m., and it will run through Oct. 9.
Laurel Andrews photo

On Friday, Anchorage art-lovers can check out well over a dozen collaborative, mixed-media pieces in an art show at Middle Way Café organized by Hope Community Resources. From alligators to elephants, each colorful, playful piece lights up the café's already rather delightful ambiance.

The show, named “Creature Feature,” will hold its opening reception at Middle Way on Friday, Sept. 14, between 6 and 8 p.m., and it will run through Oct. 9.

This show is the latest project by the artists at the non-profit, and it was organized by Julie Mettler, who helped start the art program a few years ago; it’s just one of many recreational activities that Hope provides for disabled folks. The non-profit has been serving disabled community members all across Southcentral Alaska for over 40 years, but only in the past 3 years, through diligent volunteer efforts, has the studio come into being.

It began as an after-hours, fully volunteered operation, and has since transformed into a full-time studio. About 30 different people come through the art studio in any given month. But there’s plenty of “room to grow,” Mettler says.

Mettler described how at an early age, “people decide they can’t do art,” and how that’s especially true for people with disabilities, who often have limited educational opportunities from an early age.

So when people come into the art studio for the first time, Mettler tells them to “sit down and draw something. It doesn’t matter what it is.”

Then they project the drawings onto a different material and cut them out -- for this show, they were projected onto wood, traced and cut out, then covered with colorful, patterned fabric. For “Creature Feature,” the pieces are extremely well-detailed -- all the different materials decorating them, from beads to fabric, come into focus when viewed up close.

One of the most striking aspects of the program is how the act of creating art changes people. Mettler describes how folks with behavioral challenges transform while in the studio -- none of their challenges surface in the midst of artistic expression.

All the pieces being shown in “Creature Feature” will be for sale. Money raised will go back into the art studio to help pay for supplies.

Feeling inspired? Maybe you should consider volunteering with Hope.