Austin is known for its robust artistic community, and many members of that community use their work to advance a social agenda.
For Fran Patterson, that agenda is to do her bit for young people around the world.
Patterson, who lives in Northwest Austin, is a multimedia contemporary folk artist whose work is whimsical, soaked with color and sometimes inspirational. Her first one-woman show will open with a reception at 12:15 p.m. Sunday at North Hills Gallery in Northwest Hills United Methodist Church, 7050 Village Center Drive.
Patterson learned empathy from her mother, whom she describes as someone who would chat up the kid bagging her groceries and wind up starting a scholarship fund for him.
“My mom was that way,” she said. “She was an example.”
And she’s been an artist since she was a child.
“I guess I was just born an artist,” Patterson said. “I would come home from school and draw what happened that day.”
She got her degree in art education from Texas Tech University and has taught in a variety of capacities, everywhere from prison ministries to psychiatric hospitals to workshops.
“The quickest way to raise anyone’s self-confidence is through art,” Patterson said. “I just find a lot of enjoyment and want to encourage people to try.”
She’s also active in a number of charities: a Romanian orphanage, another in Peru, a school in Swaziland. She had some of her paintings made into greeting cards and sold them to raise money to buy Christmas presents for the Romanian children. She connects with many of the organizations through her church, Westover Hills Church of Christ.
This serious business is financed by her work, which doesn’t take itself too seriously. Her studio on the second floor of her home is a repository of found objects: paper, fabric, buttons, you name it. She’s a bit of a hoarder. Her preferred term is pack rat.
“I’m a button queen,” Patterson said. “If they were coins, I’d be rich.”
Patterson’s exhibit, “Looking Through the Other Side,” runs through the month and contains more than 50 works. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday. It is closed on Saturdays.