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NORTH GWINNETT VOICE: #suwaneesummervibes

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

The Suwanee Arts Center has organized its 2021 Summer Juried Exhibit, #SuwaneeSummerVibes. The exhibit highlights local artists, displaying 2D and 3D art in a variety of mediums, including paintings, photography, pottery, mixed media, glass, woodworking and sculpture. The theme of Summer Vibes captures the essence of summer: sunshine filled days, breezy nights and colors all around. The works were all judged and awards were given for overall best in show, best in 2D, 3D and photography, as well as honorable mentions in each category.

The winner of best in show at the #SuwaneeSummerVibes exhibit was painter Kayla Brown with her piece “Radiance.” Brown is a lifelong resident of Suwanee, and she has been painting portraits for three years, since her junior year of high school.

“Throughout the time I’ve been creating art, I mostly did cartoon illustrations, still life drawings and digital artwork,” Brown said. “A family member had commissioned me to create a portrait painting for her office, and that was when I realized I truly enjoyed creating this type of work.”

For the current exhibit, Kayla wanted to create a piece with several warm hues and pops of color to represent the essence of the summer seasons, and “Radiance” does just that. The portrait captures the beautiful skin tones of a young woman standing in front of a sunset-like background, giving feelings of the warmth and comfort of summer.

Brown is a sophomore at Kennesaw State University studying digital animation. She aspires to become an animator and a storyboard artist at either Pixar Studios or Cartoon Network. Her goal for the future is to create more animated shows and movies that represent African Americans as main characters.

“In my eyes, having my work displayed in the Suwanee Art Gallery means that I can give back to my community in the form of visual inspiration,” Brown said. “Since I am currently the youngest member of the organization, it gives me an opportunity to inspire other young people who also have a passion for creating art.”

The winner of best in 2D was Suwanee resident Sandra Ackovic with her painting “Old Olive Tree.” Ackovic is originally from the city of Mostar, Herzegovina and Bosnia. She came to America as a refugee, and she has been living in Suwanee for 10 years. Sandra has been painting professionally for six years, and she has had small changes to her style over that time. However, for the most part, she enjoys painting with strong, bold colors that do not necessarily complement each other.

“I paint how I feel, I start with abstract layers and strokes, and many times [the] painting just forms itself,” she said, “and I see something familiar that takes me to finish [the] representation; either landscape, figurative art or animal art.”

Sandra entered three of her paintings into the #SuwaneeSummerVibes exhibit: “Old Olive Tree,” “Happy Day” and “Hydrangeas.” Each painting is in the Expressionism style, and Ackovic said they all remind her of the feelings of summer. The bright colors in her paintings certainly express the beauty of the summer months, when flowers are in full bloom and bright green leaves rustle in the trees.

The winner of best in 3D is local Buford artist Richard Shivers for his piece “Garden in the Woods.” Shivers was born and raised in Georgia, where he had a long career as a music educator. After retiring from teaching, Shivers made the decision to pursue his lifelong goal of becoming a potter.

“In 2004 my quest began as I participated in pottery classes and learned from some of the best teachers in the metro Atlanta arena,” she said. “After years of study my next challenge became starting my own independent home studio in order to take my skills to a new level.”

Shivers enjoys creating pottery pieces with both beauty and function. ​He said the process of creating pottery is complete when a piece is meaningfully used to serve others.

“Gathering around the table, whether casual or more formal, is an important part of our culture,” he said, “and having pieces of pottery to enrich this time creates a delightful opportunity of being together.”

Shivers’ award-winning “Garden in the Woods” bowl creates a story. The inside of the bowl replicates a garden pond with a shell pattern, fish, water and flying dragonflies above the water’s edge. The outside is a flower garden with various blooms against a woven basket. The rim recreates branches from the woods with dragonflies and ladybugs completing the peaceful scene. Aside from the visual design of the bowl, the piece also represents the comfort of family through its practicality. As with most of Richard’s pottery, the bowl is meant to be used and enjoyed, giving a sense of family and togetherness through a beautiful nature scene.

The winner of best in photography was Chris Anderson with “Ready.” Anderson started photography at a young age in Washington state, learning from his older brother, an Emmy Award-winning professional photographer who studied at Brooks institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California. At the age of 14, Anderson bought his first 35mm camera, and he learned to roll and develop his own film and prints. He continues to learn throughout his world travels, which have brought him to more than 20 countries.

Anderson currently lives in Suwanee, and he feels fortunate to have the Suwanee Arts Center as a way to connect with his community.

“Ready” is a photo of a boy as he is just beginning to enter the ocean with his skimboard. The photo captures the essence of excitement of gliding over the waves. It also explores the anticipation of the rush of such a ride, a feeling that is characteristic of summer. Anderson also submitted a photo titled “Go.” Both photos are part of a summer photography series called “Boys of Summer,” shot in Newport Beach, California.

The #SuwaneeSummerVibes will be on through Aug. 31 at the Suwanee Arts Center. For more information, visit

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