Creative talents aside, professional artists Harrison Blackford, William Buchheit, Elizabeth Sher and Trey Finney have at least two things in common: all sparked a passion for art as young Lower School students at Spartanburg Day School, and all will be featured in the school's upcoming alumni exhibit, "Art Start."
The exhibit – the first of the school year in the Mildred Harrison Dent Fine Arts Center Gallery – opens Sept. 11 with a special reception for the artists on Sept. 26 from 5-7 p.m. "Art Start" is an exhibit of more than 40 pieces and will feature Blackford's signature vibrant paintings, photography by Buchheit and Sher and paintings in Finney's natural, impressionistic style.
Dent Center Coordinator Sam Mitchell said it's rewarding as an art teacher to see a passion for art come full circle.
"We seek to convince all students of their creative potential as intelligent viewers, perceptive critics and sensitive interpreters of the arts in addition to providing students a nurturing environment in which to produce art," Mitchell said. "I have no question our focus on creative problem-solving combine with our holistic approach to teaching visual arts at Spartanburg Day School is the solid foundation that reassures our art students that fine arts are a professional career choice."
"Bringing these four artists together has been a joy," said SDS Alumni Council member Susan Willis Dunlap, who assisted in coordinating the show. "These exhibitors are truly accomplished and respected artists. There is going to be a lot of talent on the walls for this exhibit."
Blackford '05 believes that art should "energize... and inspire." Blackford turned her studies at Sewanee: The University of the South in art and interior design into a successful art career. With more than 8,000 Instagram followers and a studio in Charleston, Blackford sells paintings and prints on her website, harrisonblackford.com. She says that the question that drives her creativity is, "Shouldn't art make you happy?" Her bright colors and vibrant style appeal to a range of art enthusiasts, as her last sold out show at SDS demonstrated to her hometown fans.
William Buchheit, a self-defined "late bloomer" when it came to his pursuit of art, found his love of photography through a career in his family's journalism business. In 2006, Buchheit found his passion for taking photos of wildlife. His great white shark photos have been published by National Geographic, the Smithsonian and the UK Daily Mail. Buchheit has branched out in recent years, shooting wildlife from the plains of Africa to the jungles of Peru. He explains his passion for photographing wildlife: "Leopards fighting, a grizzly bear nursing or a shark bursting from the sea with a seal in his mouth are the breathtaking events that I attempt to capture. In my experience, there is nothing as rewarding as wildlife photography when you get the shot, or as heartbreaking as when you miss it."
Elizabeth Sher's love of photography began in her father's darkroom, where he taught her the science behind film. As a student at SDS, she served as yearbook photographer, then strengthened her artistic and photographic skills at the Savannah College of Art and Design and began her career as a freelance photographer and photo stylist. Sher has since traveled the world, capturing stunning outdoor images with her unique vision for documenting hunting and country sports. Two of her most recent commercial clients are The Office of the Treasurer of S.C. and The U.S. Embassy in Switzerland. Sher explains, "I want to capture the beauty in my subject, whether it is a person, a house, an activity or an event. If the beauty isn't obvious, I feel it is my responsibility to seek it out."
Trey Finney graduated from the Ringling School of Art and Design in 1987 with a degree in illustration. After two years as an architectural illustrator, Finney was hired by Walt Disney Feature Animation. During his 15 years at Disney, Trey contributed to nine beloved and successful animated films, including "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin," "The Lion King" and "Mulan." Finney continued to study painting and discovered that this pursuit "inspired a more personal journey." He left Disney and moved back to Spartanburg to pursue a full-time career in fine art. In 2014, Finney won an "Award of Distinction" at The American Impressionist Society's annual show, and in 2016 won second place at the prestigious "Plein Air Easton" show. Finney continues to travel extensively and paint, exhibiting his works in galleries throughout the Southeast.