2017 Corey Anne Celebration of Women in the Arts

Florence Art School hosted the 5th Annual Corey Anne Celebration of Women in the Arts in August of 2017.  The exhibit featured five local and regional female artists:  Gilda Aita, Cynthia Dixon, Cassondra Greer, Betty Powell, and Susan Van Wyk.  The celebration included a sponsorship of a West Jefferson Backstreet concert featuring the Mountain Laurels. The Symposium on Women’s Influence in the Arts included talks by all the exhibit participants as well as keynote speaker Edith Crutcher.


Gilda Aita

Sculpture by Gilda

Gilda Aita is a ceramic artist who creates healing pieces for herself and others. She creates spiritual artwork that includes; past life and spirit figures, drums, wall hangings, whistles, lamps, prayer pots, healing balls and other healing objects. Integrating her study of spirituality with her clay works, Gilda has developed an intuitive ability to connect with others and provide healing messages through her work.

She shows her work at Aita Studios, Wilkes Art Gallery and on line. Her art can be found in private collections nationally and internationally.

Gilda studied at Barton College in Wilson, NC earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Art Education and minoring in printmaking. She continued her study at Penland School of Crafts and with a love of continuous learning researching and testing the possibilities of her craft.

She resides In North Wilkesboro, NC with her husband, Kevin Aita, two children Lina and Alison.



Cynthia Dixon

“Argentina”, an oil painting by Cynthia

Cynthia is a native and resident of Western North Carolina.  With immense driving curiosity, she has been trained through exposure to numerous professional artists and through network courses, books and workshops.  She is currently a member of the Daniel Edmondson ‘Art Masters Program’ .  Her paintings have been accepted in juried exhibits in Asheville, Winston-Salem, Hickory, Ashe County and Watauga County and are displayed in galleries and private collections throughout North Carolina.

Artistic abilities are many with Cynthia.  She has had formal training in painting, music and dance.   Her latest work is in oil painting, but she also enjoys painting with acrylics and drawing with charcoal and ink.  She also paints original designs for hand-painted wall paper and unusual murals on glass and mirror. Artists who have given Cynthia inspiration for her paintings include Henri Rousseau, Leonardo Da Vinci, Claude Monet, Andrew Wyeth and Jack Vettriano. 

“I have been drawing and painting as long as I can remember.  My paintings have evolved from basic forms of realism to a mixture of abstract shapes pooled together with reality.  Living in Ashe County has given me the perfect exposure to the beauty of the land and inspires my work and reminds me of my love of nature.  I take rich, vivid colors of realism and abstract forms and create pieces reflecting the warmth of our world.  Whether it is a soft, glowing piece of pottery or bold shapes of tree branches – I allow my paint to create the essence of the moment.  I am not limited in my style – both realism and abstract are a constant exploration for me.  If my works of art move my audience into a ‘moment in time’ where they feel the passion of the paint and the radiance of the subject, then I feel accomplished.”

Cassondra Greer

Photo by Cassondra

Cassondra Greer developed an interest in photography in high school, when she took her first class and bought her first 35mm Cannon SLR camera.  Self-taught since her introduction in high school, Cassondra has transitioned to digital photography.  She has a diverse background of subject matter and she now focuses on event documentation, finding the raw emotions captured in the moment make for provocative images that resonate with viewers in the present and will represent historical perspectives for viewers in the future.

Cassondra also has a passion for theater, and has participated in the local Little Theater for the past four years.  She is an Ashe County native and currently lives in Creston with her two sons, 2 dogs, 2 cats, and one fish.



Betty Powell

A painting by Betty Powell

Betty Powell is an artist and teacher whose sensitive pastels, watercolors, oils, acrylics and mixed media collages hang in private and public collections across the United States.

She is a native of  Wentworth, North Carolina, and has lived in various parts of the state over the years and now is a long-time resident of Wilkesboro. Betty began her art lessons at seven years of age. Many years later after raising her family, she continued her art education and received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Art Education from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. After graduation she began teaching Art in the Wilkes County School system. In 1984 she decided to devote her time exclusively to her own painting and furthering her education by returning to Appalachian State University and earning her Master’s Degree in Art Education.

Her belief in hard work and the continuing study of her craft has kept her mind and eyes open to the beauty around her. She has studied with the well-known pastelists Wolf Kahn and Charles Basham and others to master the brightness and vibrancy of pastels.

She is a student of life who celebrates each new step in her painting. The people and places in her life are her subject matter. She believes that true “seeing” is the goal of all artists and enlightenment takes place when one lets his/her innocence see nature and life with child-like awe and respect.

Over the years Betty has received numerous awards for her work including winning “First Place” and “Best in Show” in many juried shows.

Betty works out of her home studio in Wilkesboro, NC and is frequently called upon to conduct workshops and jury art shows.

Artist’s Statement

The North Carolina landscape is my primary source of inspiration. I believe that if you go out into the landscape and not only look, but also listen with your heart as well as with your ears, the landscape will speak to you. The importance of landscape is its grandeur and power. Celebrating landscape is reclaiming our oneness with God and nature.

As a landscape artist, I am fascinated by rich colors and like to use pure, vibrant colors that are joyous. I want my pastel paintings to have a strong play of light and shadow and have poetic elements of atmosphere, knowledge, feeling and inspiration. I have found pastels to be the most suitable medium for expressing the beauty I see around me. Pastels have a life and luminosity all their own.


Susan Van Wyk

“A Walk in the Woods”, painting by Susan

Susan Van Wyk grew up in Tennessee and received her degree in fine arts and certification in art education from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.  She moved with her family to Ashe County in 1980.  In 1988 she began a visual arts teaching career at the Ashe High School.  During this time she painted in all media, but especially oils, exhibiting in local and regional venues.  She is now retired from teaching; a member of the gallery committee of Ashe County Arts Council; a member of ArtMix, a group of women artists and continues to paint.  

Susan’s style and subject matter are an exlectic mix held together by the element of color.  Whether painting natural forms, buildings, landscape, portraits, or still life, there is always something unique in that subject which she finds compelling.  Often that attraction is based on a very personal connection which becomes intensified and enhanced by the way light and shadow add drama to that subject, or how color can be amplified to give the subject even more interest.






Keynote Speaker: Edith Crutcher

Edith Colvard Crutcher of Jefferson and Washington, DC will serve as the Keynote Speaker at the Corey Anne Celebration of Women in the Arts.

She is known for her research and lectures on “The Hidden History Of the American Indian Woman”, and is a lifelong advocate for women and the arts.

Ms. Crutcher has served as Commissioner of the Indian Art and Crafts Board of the US Department of Interior. She was a presidential appointee to the Board of Trustees of the institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

For fifteen years she served with issues concerning the Native American Community and the Arts. She was an advisor on the design process for the Museum  of the American Indian on the Capitol Mall in Washington. She served as director on the board of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and as chair of the NMWA National Advisory Board.

Ms. Crutcher is of Scots-English and Cherokee descent  and was born on ancestral land in Jefferson, now the home of Jefferson Landing.