Montgomery, TX-  Three large canvas art pieces painted by Shana Sanders, owner of Paintin the Town in Montgomery, enhance The Giving Trees Festival by serving as bright and colorful signage for the various areas of the event.  The Grove of Giving Trees canvas depicts a soldier just returning home from deployment, standing outside of the forest of trees with his home nestled inside, an American Flag proudly displayed (similar to the Green Zone Housing Exhibit home you can tour at the event).  This canvas will be featured in front of The Grove of Giving Trees section where people can make donations by writing their donation amount on a wooden ornament, to hang on the trees where a visual representation of the support for our veterans can be witnessed.

Sitting just outside The Reindeer Room, where there will be a hot chocolate bar, a popcorn bar and live music, you will see The Reindeer Room canvas.  It captures the fun, kitschy, coffee shop feel of this room in the festival.  And  at the main entrance of the festival will be the art featuring the name of the event, welcoming all who will enter.  Patti Faranger, who shares a passion for the cause, wanted to contribute and painted the snowman.  These canvases are 18×24 and will be used from year to year, as this is the first annual event.

Shana has been painting for decades.  She began while working as a flight attendant for 25 years.  She brought art supplies with her and painted everywhere she went; Amsterdam, Paris, London, etc. “Photographs just don’t capture the spirit and emotions of a place like painting does.” Shana explains. Then, on her days off, she would continue to paint for relaxation.

The Sanders family lived in New Orleans at the time, where the schools were terrible, so Shana and her husband worked together to home school their children. Since they were both flight attendants, working opposite schedules so one was always home, they shared the homeschooling opportunity, but rarely saw each other.  After Hurricane Katrina hit, the Sanders chose to move to Montgomery, to live near the airport where Shana’s husband still works, but also enjoy the quiet, hometown community.   Shana decided to retire and open an art studio, Paintin the Town, so there would be a place for homeschoolers to have social opportunities while learning art.

Shana says, “We offer a place for families.  If someone wants to take an art lesson and can’t find a sitter, we have a corner with books.  We have many different mediums.  We don’t just do acrylic, but also offer oil and water colors.”  Not long after opening her studio, Shana discovered the powerful therapeutic benefits of painting. Shana explains, “I have a client in her 90’s with Alzheimer’s, who was a master painter.  I’ve been told she received her training from someone  who has a painting hanging in the Capitol Building in Austin. This sweet lady comes to my studio and often stays for six hours straight, painting from her heart.  She has forgotten much of her life, but we have witnessed memories coming back through the process of creating art.”

Shana explains that her studio is a space meant to be peaceful and inspirational, where painters can explore their talents and interests.  “We have a place for those who have run out of classes to take at the high school and want to continue their artistic opportunities.  We offer classes for children who are too young for school classes.  We have the unique ability to teach all ages and stages.”

Paintin the Town wants to start an autistic program in the high school, so these children can have a program which allows them to communicate through the artistic process. This was inspired by an autistic young man, 25, whose sister-in-law got him art lessons in oil painting and who keeps coming back because he loves it.  Shana says, “Painting is his way of communicating with the world, and it’s just beautiful.”

All of the Giving Trees Festival art canvases can be seen this weekend at The Lone Star Community Center, 2500 Lone Star Parkway, Friday Dec 16, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Saturday Dec 17, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.  You can visit Paintin the Town at 18425 Hwy 105 W. Montgomery TX.

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