For Immediate Release
The Arts Council
Contact: Kevin Ledgewood
VISUAL ART BY HELEN SHAPIRO ON DISPLAY DURING JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL
(Tuscaloosa) The Arts Council will present an exhibit of works by artist Helen Shapiro (1914-2006) at the Bama Theatre’s Greensboro Room March 22 – April 30, 2012. A reception will take place April 5 from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. during Art Night. The exhibit will be on display during The Arts Council’s 10th Annual Jewish Film Festival (March 24 – 27) and is coordinated by her personal friend and Tuscaloosa artist, Deborah Hughes.
A member of Meridian, Mississippi’s Jewish community, the artist worked in a variety of media, but utilized fabric collage in her later years. Shapiro focused on subject matter reflecting the people and culture of her environment and also the diverse ethnicity and geography outside of her own Southern experience. With great sensitivity, Shapiro often translated the works of Gauguin, Renoir and other artists she admired into the medium she loved, cloth collage.
Located at 600 Greensboro Avenue in Tuscaloosa, the galleries at the Bama Theatre are open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. – noon and 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. and also during Bama Theatre events. Enter the gallery through the PARA Building, located adjacent to the theatre, during daytime hours.
For more information about The Arts Council or Bama Theatre visit www.tuscarts.org or follow the group on Facebook at “The Arts Council – Bama Theatre – Cultural Arts Center,” and also on Twitter. Call 205-758-5195 for further information.
Helen P. Shapiro (1914-2006)
Helen P. Shapiro was born in 1914 to Dr. Abraham Potasnic and Dora Cohen Potasnic who settled in Meridian, MS shortly after their marriage. Shapiro and her younger sister Lena both painted in high school and won state-wide awards honoring young Mississippi artists. She graduated from Meridian High School, but having come of age in the Depression, which hit her family hard, there was no money for college. At the onset of WWII, she worked as a medical secretary at the Air Field in Meridian. That in many respects was one of the happiest times of her life. The war brought many young Jewish airmen to Meridian and she enjoyed an active social life. Once the war ended, she enrolled for one year at Parsons in New York which constituted her only truly formal art training. Unfortunately, after her first year of studies there, her father died and she felt compelled to return to Meridian to join her newly widowed mother. She married Al Shapiro, a native New Yorker, in 1948, and had a daughter Cathy and a son David.
The Jewish community in Meridian was small, but was supported by an Orthodox shul and a Reform congregation. The artist’s family remained Orthodox, keeping strictly kosher. This was difficult in a place like Meridian. A kosher butcher traveled through about once a year, and the family’s poultry was procured this way, with Kosher meat ordered via freight train. Helen’s family joined Temple Beth Israel, a Reform congregation, but on the High Holy Days, always attended the tiny Orthodox shul. Helen designed a stone plaque for Temple Beth Israel which stood in its drive for many years.
An active member of the Art League of Meridian, Shapiro continued to paint throughout her life, often painting watercolors which depicted her mother’s last remaining property - literally across the railroad tracks. Collages became her focus in the late 1960’s and she concentrated on this art form until she was in her late 80s. She won several awards from the Sears Foundation in the late 1960s. She died in 2006 and is buried in the Orthodox cemetery in Meridian.