ArtWORKS Alliance

Members of ArtWORKS Alliance meet in Choccolocco Park to share their art with the community. From left, Randy Young, James Ambrister, Anita Ambrister, Kent Shaddrix and Chris Hanks.

Thomas Howard/The Anniston Star

Anita Ambrister and Randy Young of Oxford have about 80 years of art experience between them. Recently, they launched ArtWORKS Alliance, an organization for artists in the Oxford area to share art with the community.

In the first few months, the group has held several “Art in the Park” events at Choccolocco Park for the public to meet local artists. Young said the group is planning more events, but they have not nailed down times and locations.

Ambrister, an art teacher in Oxford city schools, said she tries to teach her students that art is more than painting or drawing.

“The 680 children I teach every year come in and say ‘Are we going to do art today?’ AKA, ‘Are you going to let us draw and smear stuff on a piece of paper?’” Ambrister said.

Ambrister said she sees a lot of people who don’t understand what art is. She said art is forming a mental image of something and then creating it. Ambrister said she sees architects and engineers create art and not even know it.

“It all goes back to what’s in your head,” Ambrister said. “You have to have a mental image. Man cannot live without mental image.”

Ambrister and Young taught at the same school 18 years ago, but had lost touch until she began teaching Young’s grandson. Like Ambrister, Young had been concerned about the lack of community organizations for artists in Oxford and Calhoun County.

“In our area, I knew of no art organization that brought everyone and said ‘Hey, there’s more than just painters,’” Young said. “We have OPAC here in Oxford that is doing a lot of things, but that isn’t enough.”

The two decided to create ArtWORKS Alliance. Their goal is to bring artists together to teach the community about art.

 “I just want to make a difference,” said Young, who is retired and lives in Oxford.

Ambrister said the Alliance has painters, musicians and dancers, but they are looking to include as many types of art as they can.

“People don’t understand what art is,” Ambrister said. “It’s a universal language. People laugh at the same things, they cry at the same things. It’s not like, ‘OK, we’re going to smear paint on a piece of paper.’”

    According to Young, ArtWORKS Alliance is gaining some traction in the community, but he sees a lot of room to grow. He said he has started teaching Tuesday night painting classes at Hobby Lobby and is looking to start writer’s workshops in the fall.

    Young said he is also talking to different businesses about possible meeting spaces, events, and gallery hosting. He said he is also reaching out to local artists he knows to see if they are interested in joining.

    “I think this has the potential to be big,” Young said.

Young said anyone who wants to know more about ArtWORKS Alliance or get involved should go to its website for a list of upcoming events and contact information for the group.