Meet Five Regional Artists at the BCA and Stewart House Plein Air Event


The Buchanan Center for the Arts is teaming up with the Stewart House, 1015 East Euclid Avenue in Monmouth for a Plein Air Arts Affair on Saturday, June 10th, shares Executive Director Kristyne Gilbert:

“We have invited five regional artists to join us that day, Cherry Simmons, Shayla Ray, Claire Geno, Laura Cavanaugh, and Ashley VanDeCasteele as they paint and create. If you are familiar with our Plein Air events in the past, the artwork that is created is auctioned off and all proceeds go toward the support of BCA programming as well as this time around the Stewart House programming.”

The event will be held on the Stewart House lawn from 11 am to 1 pm on Saturday, June 10th.

Artist Biographies:

Laura Cavanaugh
I grew up in Monmouth, IL, across the street from Monmouth College. I am currently a retired art teacher of 35 years from Oswego East High School in Oswego, Illinois. I still enjoy substitute teaching in the Oswego School District. Students are definitely my passion. I also teach private art lessons. My strengths are in 2-dimensional art, drawing and painting.
I graduated from Monmouth College in 1986 with an Art degree and a certificate in teaching. In addition, I earned my master’s degree in Educational Administration and Leadership from Aurora University in 2003. Also, I was involved in graduate school in Europe through NIU. My concentration was in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Lastly, I led a tour in Europe with High School students from Oswego East High School.
I have exhibited artwork throughout the Fox Valley area, and recently at the Monmouth College Art Educator exhibition. I also donate my artwork to area fundraising events. My Art department won The Schools of Distinction Award (ART) 2021-2023, from The Illinois Art Education Association. In 2017, I helped collaborate with the Monmouth College art department (for a Black Lives Matter art show between Oswego East High School and Monmouth College). The show earned a Kaleidoscope award from Monmouth College. Also, I was the winner of downtown Naperville (IL) painted sculpture contest and Past President of the Fox Valley Arts Council.

Claire Geno
Claire is a New Hampshire-based artist. She has been creating since childhood, learning new techniques and practices along the way from her schoolteachers in Athens, AL, Auburn University’s graphic design program, and Bob Ross on sick days.
After taking a painting in plein air class in the fall of 2022, Claire discovered a passion for watercolor. Her work is inspired by nature and her daily surroundings and is characterized by a vibrant use of color and a loose, expressive style.
Claire’s work has been exhibited at the AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon, NH. She enjoys planning painting meet ups with other painters, as well as organizing a monthly group critique meeting.
When not painting, Claire can be found outside in New England with her husband and corgi.

Shayla Ray Kent
Shayla Ray is a Quad Cities based mixed media artist. She originally studied animation and graphic design at the Art Institute of Colorado from 2004-2007 and became interested in traditional painting methods. Primarily using watercolors, ink and colored pencils, her artwork captures elements of nature and wildlife, bringing out the symbolism behind each subject. Shayla also incorporates her graphic design knowledge by creating digital illustrations or adding effects to traditional paintings. Being out in nature and watching wildlife sparks her creativity.

Cherry Simmons
Cherry Simmons has always lived in rural Henderson County. Cherry graduated from Yorkwood High School, attended Illinois State University, and graduated from Monmouth College in 1980. She began teaching at Union High School that same year and remained there until retirement in 2014. Cherry taught middle school/high school art the last six years under the consolidated district called West Central. Cherry and husband, David, farm outside of Biggsville and have three married daughters and five grandchildren. Cherry has been an active member of the Buchanan Center and is currently an Art Presenter for two classes at United West.

Ashley VanDeCasteele
Ashley VanDeCasteele is a Quad Cities-based artist who earned a BFA with honors in art education from WIU in 2015. This came after she spent her high school years participating in Quad City Arts community projects. Her years since graduating have been filled with professionally screen-printing apparel products while working on her personal practice. Currently under the name Purple Press Studio, Ashley offers commissioned portraits and landscapes using watercolor and colored pencil to create unique recreations.

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