Stimulus program: Delaware County couple hope that opening their property to others will inspire creativity

July 6, 2009 kidsandnature Education/SchoolsMental and Behavioral HealthParentingParks and LandSpiritual and Religious

Stimulus program
Delaware County couple hope that opening their property to others will inspire creativity
Monday, July 6, 2009 3:32 AM
By Jill Laster
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Driving recently through Delaware County, Sandra Wu and husband Ed Lawry were drawn to a sign posted in a yard on a rural, tree-lined road: “Sanctuary for the Arts.”

Neither is trained as an artist, but the Marengo couple stopped anyway.

What they found was “a center for creativity” — essentially an art studio set in the woods.

“When you’re out here, you don’t hear traffic, you don’t hear airplanes,” said Wu, who recently took a bookbinding class at the sanctuary.

“You hear the birds and the stream. If you don’t hear that, you don’t hear anything; it’s just silence.”

An inspirational setting is what Sydney Schardt and her husband, Gerald, wanted when they decided to turn their 3-acre property into a venue for artists as well as classes, ranging from drawing to photography.

Schardt has shot photos for about 10 years and pursued writing for about 15, but her largest work of art is the home that the couple have remodeled.

The woods outside are lined with paths snaking down to a creek about 12 feet wide — where many of the classes are conducted. A small clearing adjacent to the woods — filled with blue and violet wildflowers — is also inviting.

Schardt plans to host a July 26 exhibit in the clearing, showcasing the works of artists who have painted there as students or instructors.

Artists she met through events or personal connections teach at the center.

When any of the six instructors wants to take a class inside for a lecture, he or she uses the Schardt home.

The idea for the business was conceived last summer, when her artist friends mentioned her place as ideal for fueling creativity.

Recently laid off from a marketing job, Schardt viewed an artistic program as a good opportunity to combine her creative side with her marketing background.

Sanctuary for the Arts charges $45 to $240 for courses and a $20 monthly membership fee for Plein Air, which allows artists to roam the grounds.

Schardt hopes that the classes for adults and serious teenagers help them recapture their creative passion.

“I think a number of adults get to a point in their lives when they get back to art for some reason,” she said. “You know, in times like these, it’s a great stress reliever.”

Paula Hardin of Dublin, who received an undergraduate degree in art, thought of herself as a painter. After her multiple sclerosis was diagnosed in 1994, however, painting became more difficult.

Hardin began taking photographs as a way to continue creating art.

As her coordination failed, she became frightened of becoming stranded on an unfamiliar trail while shooting.

The network of paths at Sanctuary for the Arts offers a perfect fit, Hardin said.

“I’m totally excited about the opportunity to shoot there,” the 54-year-old said. “It’s got all the elements, but it’s got the safety and comfort of home.”

Business has been slow, Schardt said — with many classes unfilled and just a handful of people participating in the Plein Air effort.

She is hunting for another job but hopes to keep the sanctuary running.

“For right now, I’m just going with the flow.”

The budding program is drawing praise, said Donna Jarrell, an author who plans to teach there.

The place stands out, Jarrell said, for its focus on the joy of the creative process.

“It’s sort of like the difference between when you exercise to lose weight and exercising to improve the quality of life,” she said.

“This is art to improve the quality of life.”

jlaster@dispatch.com

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