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'I HeART Connections': Carrboro-based virtual art exhibition features global artists

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The Art Therapy Institute of North Carolina opened a free virtual community art show called “I HeART Connections” on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022.

The Art Therapy Institute of North Carolina opened a free virtual community art show called “I HeART Connections” on Feb. 11.

The art show is focused on the power of connection, specifically how the artists relate with themselves, nature, creativity and others. 

Bridget Pemberton-Smith, who serves as executive director for Art Therapy Institute of North Carolina, said the exhibition uses an online program called KUNSTMATRIX to replicate an in-person exhibition on a virtual platform. 

The exhibition offers a guided tour, details on each art piece and a self-paced option. 

Although this is the 12th annual show, this is the second year that the institute has done a virtual option due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since this year's exhibit is remote, artists from around the world can submit their art to be featured.

“It was amazing at the opening last year because we had people who had stayed up to the middle of the night to come to the opening,” Pemberton-Smith said. “It was really powerful. It really sort of highlighted to us the amazing connections that we could have during the pandemic.”   

Pemberton-Smith said these international connections inspired the institute to change the name of the exhibition from "I Heart Art" to “I HeART Connections" this year. 

“We’re just so moved that we’re a small nonprofit in a small town of Carrboro, and that we’ve reached people not just across the United States but across the world,” she said. 

R. Drada, an artist based in Berlin, has two art pieces featured in the exhibit: “Woman Before a Mirror" and “Yellow Portrait.” 

“Yellow Portrait” is a self-portrait of R. Drada looking in the mirror. It is based on a photo that she took of herself when she was pregnant with her first child.

“I wasn’t really this person who always really yearned to become a mother — it just wasn’t a lifelong goal of mine,” R. Drada said. “For myself, it was just a document of how I feel, how I look before the child is born, because I was afraid that it might change me or I might lose my identity.” 

The second submission, “Woman Before a Mirror,” is a figurative piece with a pale skeletal face looking into a mirror with red and blue shapes surrounding the figure's face, R. Drada said. She said this piece reflects her personal experience and perspectives being Asian-American. 

“Sometimes I’m in situations where I’m clearly accepted as an American, sometimes I’m not sure, which is why those red and blue shapes are kind of shadowed around me,” R. Drada said. “I think when it comes to the skeletal look to the woman I think it’s just based on fear because unfortunately there's people being attacked for being Asian.”

R. Drada said that while there are many open calls for art, she was drawn to this art show specifically because of the theme of connection. Much of her art is a reflection of her current life experiences and thoughts. 

Clara Bolle, an artist based in Amsterdam, is showing  “Abundance 12" and “Abundance 13" in the exhibit. 

She said having the exhibition be virtual is important because of the international community that is created. 

“I really enjoyed making expressive works with a lot of color,” Bolle said. “Abundance is about the harvest, about access, about a lust for life and also that we can find this lust for life in all aspects of ourselves and nature.” 

You can explore the virtual "I HeART Connections" exhibition on the ATI website until March 10.

@meg_bergstrom

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 

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