ArtWorks Presents New Exhibit: Face2Face

Jan. 31, 2024
A crowd of attendees at the ArtWorks Face2Face exhibit

By Drew Milne

On Friday, January 12, ArtWorks unveiled their new exhibition: Face2Face. The exhibition was a culmination of months of work by the ArtWorks artists, local art students, and faculty. The opening event took place from 5 to 7 PM in the UArizona BIO5 building. The art remained displayed in BIO5 until Friday, January 26.

Like last year’s event, it was an opportunity to show how art isn’t just for trained professionals, but everyone regardless of ability.

As the show’s name implies, it was themed around portraits. The artists created portraits that illustrated their personalities, interests, hobbies, and personal journeys. Other than this basic framework, the artists were free to experiment as they pleased, with the choice of materials, media, and structure being up to them. This freedom resulted in a wide variety in the art pieces. There were pieces made with colored pencil, watercolor, collage, and, in one case, even sewing and doll-making.

A description of the Face2Face project

This exhibit was unique in that the ArtWorks artists worked closely with students taking the community art education course, “Theory and Practice: Art Museum Education”. Students and artists met together once per week over the 2023 fall semester. 

“Each studio (three studios in total) decided on the specifics of who would draw whom,” explained ArtWorks Director Dr. Yumi Shirai. “Two studios drew portraits of their partners and exchanged them to complete the backgrounds, based on their ‘getting to know’ activities. One studio reversed the order.”

Each participant was able to add to and finish the other’s work. All the while, each would give direction to the other, ensuring that both are represented faithfully and effectively. 

Last year’s event placed a strong emphasis on using art to build connections in the worst phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year took that idea a step further by directly facilitating the connection between the artists and students. 

The project was an opportunity for both artists and students to learn from each other. Artists honed not only their art skills, but also their skills in self-expression and communication. Students were given an opportunity to apply the skills learned in their Art Museum Education class by giving the ArtWorks Artists a tour of the University of Arizona Art Museum. Meanwhile, the students also built effective team working skills, and first-hand experience with the disability community. 

The works showcased a number of local artists working with ArtWorks, including Paul McLaughlin, Event Assistant for the Sonoran Center. Paul provided pieces called “Front Face” and “Family & Spring”. Made in collaboration with art student Zoey Palladino, the pieces showcase Paul’s bright, optimistic disposition and his love of animals, flowers, and spring. 

Paul's portraits, "Front Face" (left) and "Family & Spring" (right)

After a pre-show with author Ski Chilton presenting and signing his new book There Is Another Way to Happiness, ArtWorks director Yumi Shirai opened the show with a brief introduction. 

Much of the art was available for purchase. Attendees could buy many of the pieces on display directly. Additional pieces were also set aside for a silent auction. Prints, postcards, and some pieces from past shows were also available for purchase. Proceeds from the event would go to both the artists themselves and ArtWorks. 

Jamelle's portrait

During the show, the artists were given the opportunity to talk about their art pieces - the process of creation, their experience working with the students, what the artwork means to them, and why they enjoy creating art in general.

Talking about his piece, Jamelle Texeria said it “represents me as a person”. This is evident with the prominently featured dinosaur, one of Jamelle’s strong interests, set against the backdrop of a surreal desert landscape. The moon is high in the sky on a bright, clear day, showing his creativity and love of the Sonoran desert. 

Jack McHugh's portrait, "Happy Happy Happy"

Jack McHugh’s portrait, titled “Happy, Happy, Happy,” is a collage that gives a peek into the artist’s vibrant and complex world. 

Carolee and her student partner's portrait

Another angle showing Carolee's portrait, emphasizing it's three-dimensionality

Carolee’s portrait was also unique: instead of the usual two-dimensional media, she decided her portrait would take the form of a doll. She and her collaborating art student decided this when they discovered their mutual love of sewing. The handcrafted dolls and the bright, nature-inspired background brought a whimsical touch to the event. 

Rosario's portrait

Rosario’s portrait expresses her many facets. It shows her with many of her favorite things: avocados, coconut water, and cacti; as well as the assistive device she uses for her disability. Her face has dark circles under her eyes, showing how, in her words, she's “tired a lot”. Nevertheless, she’s still smiling, maintaining her optimism all the while. 

These are just a small selection of the wide variety of artworks at the show, reflecting the diversity of the artists themselves. 

“It was fun to see how students perceive artists and how they capture each other in their drawings,” Dr. Shirai said. “They got to know each other very well, …and having the partners' art displayed in pairs allowed us to better understand the relationship they built.”

Overall, the show was another success for ArtWorks. The show set out to bring the community together to celebrate the creativity and dedication of the artists and students. In doing so, the show created a space where, to paraphrase one of the students who worked on the project, people can see the potential for art as truly free expression for all.

Looking ahead, ArtWorks will be collaborating with Dr. Gubner at the Music Department's Digital Music Lab in the Spring 2024 semester to capture stories through music. Medical students and ArtWorks artists are also working on three large panel mural collages. These collages highlight the three missions of the UA College of Medicine: excellence in education, research, and patient care. The collages will be displayed in a multi-purpose meeting room in the department.

Additionally, ArtWorks is implementing interactive, art-based, patient-centered scrapbook workshops through community partners. 

For more information, contact Yumi Shirai at