Dynellia Washington remembers seeing her name in the newspaper when she was young.
She won second place in an art competition. Her mom was so proud that she cut out the section that featured her daughter. To this day, her mom still has that clipping.
But, once she reached high school, Dynellia was discouraged to pursue art by a guidance counselor who told her it wouldn’t pan out well.
Despite feeling unsupported at school, Dynellia left her hometown of Harrisburg and went on to study at the former Art Institute of Pittsburgh and the Art Institute of Atlanta. She then taught art for four years.
Now, much more advanced than that piece in the newspaper clipping, her art hangs in Harrisburg’s MLK Jr. City Government Center as part of the Art Association of Harrisburg’s Community Exhibition Program.
This gallery was Dynellia’s entry back into the art world, a world that she never really left mentally, but was finally dipping her brush back into. It had been years since she taught art or focused much time onto her own art.
“This show put the fire back in me,” she said.
Dream Come True
This gallery holds even more importance to Dynellia because it’s not only her artwork showing but her entire family’s: husband Sedrick, son Siede and daughter Selah.
The gallery features a sampling of Sedrick’s photographs, which show animals like cattle, geese and insects up close. Dynellia’s collection revolves around the zebra. She used mixed media techniques to paint the animal as well as showcase its print on a grove of trees and a vase of flowers.
Dynellia said her artwork is often inspired by her husband’s photography.
“I critique myself very hard, but he’s always there,” she said. “He’s my biggest cheerleader.”
The couple met through art when they were both living in Atlanta. They connected while Sedrick was doing videography work. The two artists fell in love, got married and eventually had their two children. Dynellia’s dream of having a family that loved art like she did was taking shape.
Siede, who is 13, created a collection of anime sketches inspired by his favorite TV shows for the gallery. He watches YouTube tutorials showing him how to carefully pencil characters from the cartoons.
“He can go to his room and do it for hours,” Dynellia said.
On the other hand, 8-year-old Selah loves to join her mom when she paints.
“She likes to do abstract like me,” Dynellia said.
Displayed in city hall are Selah’s brightest and most colorful pieces of art. Some are mixed media pieces; one uses melted crayons to create a rainbow waterfall. Others are paintings like a big juicy watermelon and a glittery mountain range.
“I always dreamed of doing art with my kids,” Dynellia said. “It has come to fruition.”
Back to Life
The family became members of the Art Association about a year ago. There, they met President Carrie Wissler-Thomas, who found out that the whole family created art and then couldn’t resist putting it on display.
“I said, ‘Let’s show the whole family!’” Wissler-Thomas said. “I thought, what fun for the city government center.”
She gave them over a year to prepare and bring their best pieces to show.
After delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they finally put their art on display in July and couldn’t be happier to feature it in their hometown.
The AAH Community Exhibition Program puts displays art in a number of public places in the Harrisburg area. Wissler-Thomas explained how the program gives smaller-scale, local artists a chance to showcase their work.
“I found my outlet with the Art Association,” Dynellia said. “Even if I can’t do it full-time, I can at least do something.”
The art show encouraged Dynellia to start a website to showcase and sell her art. She plans to stay involved with the Art Association and find other ways to immerse herself in the Harrisburg art scene.
“The Art Association is what brought us back to life,” she said. “It makes me really proud that me and my husband have shown our kids that they can have a side hustle.”
The Washington Family Gallery is on display through the end of October in Harrisburg’s MLK City Government Center, 10 N. 2nd St., Harrisburg. The Art Association of Harrisburg is located at 21 N. Front St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.artassocofhbg.com. For more information about Dynellia Washington and her art, visit www.originalpiecesdsw.com.