Janie Buxman's self-portrait called "Release" is hanging in First United Methodist Church's Wesley Center Gallery, along with 16 other artworks by her peers at Stewart Home and School. 

In the portrait, Buxman smiles at the viewer with a white dove flying out of her hands. She said the bird represents "peace" as well as the promise of God for giving her and others life. Much of her work features themes of Christianity. 

The exhibit was placed in the Wesley Center starting June 10. According to Fine Arts Committee Chair Phyllis Rogers, the exhibit will be on display until July 31. Viewings are available by appointment. Rogers said the reaction to the artwork has been very positive, with many people enjoying the bright colors in the pieces. 

Jennifer Zingg, visual arts instructor and art enrichment coordinator at Stewart Home and School, said the exhibit is one of the first to put student art on display for the public. The idea is something the school will continue to pursue.

Zingg said a gallery exclusively for Stewart Home and School artists will be on display at Buddy's Pizza in August. That exhibit will also include a vending machine of art where patrons can buy small works by Stewart Home and School students. Zingg said Buxman is one of several talented visual artists at Stewart Home and School. The artists use a variety of media, such as paint, clay, weaving and more. 

The exhibits are the boons of Stewart Home and School's art initiative, dubbed StewARTS. Zingg said the school has had the program for about two years and it supports students' interests in art.

Three artists, including Buxman, have had their works juried by Very Special Arts Kentucky, a program under the Kennedy Center's Very Special Arts program, which provides career support to artists with disabilities, and have been placed on the program's registry of artists. Students also have art shows during events like the school's Family Weekend, where they can sell their artwork. 

Buxman said that creating art gives Stewart Home and School students a chance to express their own emotions, but seeing it on display for others to enjoy is a different experience. For her, knowing others can view her work and enjoy it for what it represents is rewarding and powerful. 

"God is the biggest thing for me. I don't really care so much to sell my work, but when I see it on display, I'm just glad that it is on display. I want people to see my work and see it for what it really is," Buxman said.

For Buxman, creating art is her way of giving back to God. When she was a baby, she experienced some health issues that threatened her survival, but she was saved by the fast thinking and action of a nurse. Buxman's adoptive mother told her that it felt like a "miracle." Buxman believes that creating art and ministering through it is why God gave her life. 

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