A new art installation has found its way to the Campbell County municipal building’s boardroom in Rustburg, a partnership between the James River Council for the Arts and Humanities and the county to bring more art to everyday locations.
Seven pieces from local artist Deon Calloway are newly installed in the boardroom, offering splashes of vibrant color under the banal fluorescent lighting and drop-tile ceilings.
Calloway, 21, a former Altavista High School student, is autistic and uses art to express himself. He didn’t talk at all when he was young, but finding art gave him an outlet for his creativity and encouraged communication.
His detailed artworks, such as his rainbow-hued, colored pencil portraits of animals, served as the foundation for him to start his own business and “come out of his shell,” according to one of his caregivers, Jessica Thomas.
He is the first of many artists who will be featured in the boardroom, said Jordan Welborn, director of Campbell County’s public libraries, who hopes the installation will be rotated quarterly.
Welborn led the effort in her role as vice president for the James River Council for the Arts and Humanities, a nonprofit that works to support public art.
“I’m kind of excited about this,” she said Thursday, laughing. She hadn’t expected it all to fall into place so neatly, but with county support the project is underway.
“Part of what I like about it is that it is unexpected,” she said of a room typically used for meetings of local government to become an impromptu gallery, “an opportunity to showcase some of the talent that we have in Campbell County.”
Calloway calls the work his “masterpieces,” and said it makes him feel proud to know they are on display. He sells his work online and features it at various craft fairs and festivals. He draws what he sees, from images of wildlife to buildings, cars and characters from his favorite movies and shows.
“He started drawing by just replicating things that he saw,” Thomas said, but now he can take commissions from people around the country, interacting with customers in a way that wouldn’t have been possible before.
“His art has provided an outlet for him to learn how to communicate with people,” she said. “If you have autism, you can still be really talented at things, but you might need a little bit of help.”
“Just a little bit,” Calloway agreed.
In the same way his work has let him connect with other people, Welborn hopes the display will connect others with art.
It’s an effort she wants to expand to other public facilities in the county, and she is on the lookout for new artists to feature. Calloway’s work will be featured until the end of July in the Haberer Building boardroom at 47 Courthouse Lane, Rustburg.
It “brightens your day,” Welborn said of the installation, and with no fees, and no need to make a special trip, she hopes county residents will enjoy the pop of artwork in an unexpected place.