The feeling is festive in the Ayers Room at the Public Library of Anniston-Calhoun County, but the focus, at this moment, is not on the holidays.

Landon Shirey is in the room’s gallery to tell me of his love for creating and collecting art, and his enthusiasm is contagious.

For him, the opening of the exhibit “Artwork from the Collections of Carlos Sanchez and Landon Shirey” is cause for celebration.

It’s clear in this collection that Shirey’s fascination for many facets of art has developed into a harvest of categories and mediums for people to see.

As I looked over the 62-piece display assembled by these two friends, I concluded: This exhibit is worth a long and leisurely visit. Fortunately, it will be up through February.

The collectors have assembled a range of works from self-taught to noted artists. The noted artists are listed in art texts and their work is seen in museums throughout the country.

“I love having the works in my home,” Shirey said. “But I want to share them. Every time I look at a portrait or landscape or silkscreen, I see something new. I’d like others to have that experience.”

A silkscreen by Marvin Shaw, “The Crown of Judas,” is a controversial modern art piece unless you know the reasons behind it.

A self portrait by Chiharu Roach, originally from Japan, is interesting because of the unusually thin brush strokes in her painting “Hello, Kitty.” Look closely and a little animal, not seen at first, appears.

Two pieces deal with architecture. Rita Springer’s watercolor of a hacienda with lush gardens in Mexico is owned by Sanchez, who is originally from Mexico City. It was painted when Springer and the late Marguerite Turner were at a workshop in Mexico. Turn it over and you’ll see a sketch of a portrait in progress.

Reflecting a lifestyle of the other extreme, a hut in a Haitian village was painted by J. E. Gourgue, a noted 20th-century artist. “This is a name that art history students learn about,” Shirey commented.

To the right of that work, Marsha Nelson’s color pencil work “Looking Back” reflects a kind, elderly woman, making you wonder “Who is that woman?”

Another point of interest: There are several examples of three academic generations of art education represented in the show. The late Richard Zoellner, a University of Alabama art professor, taught Marvin Shaw, who taught art at Jacksonville State University. Shaw’s students included Shirey, Heather Miller and Ryan McRae. All teachers and students have works in this exhibit.

Sanchez and Shirey first discovered their deep common interest in art on a trip to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta several years ago. “People who want to go with me to museums must be warned,” Shirey said. “I spend hours looking at the exhibits. Everything I see is even more intriguing now that I’ve studied the artists.”

He has indeed studied the artists in classes in art history after signing up for all the courses on that subject available. Shirey earned his bachelor of fine arts at JSU with a concentration in painting.

“Monument Valley” is a photograph taken in northern Arizona by David Cummings. “I’ve never been out west, but as I look at it, I can see the path going somewhere and the plants surrounding it,” Shirey said.

Overall, art is a teaching tool, Shirey added. It was used in early history for lessons, as seen in the lithographs on the walls of the Parish Hall at the Church of St. Michael and All Angels in Anniston. “Sometimes the lesson comes from the image, sometimes the history of the content, and sometimes the method used.”

A history lesson is definitely contained in a 13th-century work by an unknown artist that Shirey discovered in the Anniston Galleries antiques store on Noble Street. It is “Holy Infant of Atocha,” an image of the Christ Child in Roman Catholic theology, well known among Hispanic cultures in Latin America, Spain and the southwestern United States.

Collecting art is not necessarily an expensive pursuit, Shirey said. In his collection, the art has come from the artists, fortunate finds in sometimes unexpected places, and online auctions. He has also collected Pre-Columbian art, he said. “But that’s another story.”

Art is available to us all, if we make the effort, Shirey declared.

Indeed it is, I think, as we close the gallery door for the afternoon. And exhibits with this variety make it possible.

Foothills Piano Festival at JSU

The new year starts with classical music on Jan. 11, when Nicholas Susi will give a free piano recital at 7:30 p.m. at Mason Hall’s Performance Center at JSU. It is the first program in the 2018 Foothills Piano Festival, according to Wendy Freeland, coordinator.

The program is called “Wonder and Awe: Religious Expression in Liszt and Beethoven.” These composers’ so-called “late style” works often take on a depth of meaning. These pieces can be understood either as a crystallization of the composers’ lifelong work, or as final statements before “meeting their maker.”

In Susi’s recital, the sacred music of Franz Liszt helps to pull out spiritual implications from the late piano sonatas of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Susi is an assistant professor of music at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn. His recent activities have included solo and concerto performances, master classes, lectures, community outreach events and competition judging.

Hervey Folsom writes about the local arts scene every Sunday. Contact her at