To Al Bright, painting is everything.
Bright, a professor emeritus of art at Youngstown State University, was honored with an artist reception on Sunday at the Eastwood Mall’s Art Outreach Gallery.
His work — along with the work of more than 40 of his former students and middle and high school students from Niles City Schools — will be on display in the gallery through Jan. 6.
The exhibit is titled “A Celebration of Al Bright: Artists’ Reunion.”
“Art is one of the greatest gifts we can have as human beings,” Bright said. “If not creating art, it is wonderful to be around it.”
A Youngstown native, Bright is an abstract artist who has been praised nationally and internationally for his unique style. His work hangs all over the country, in places like Kent State University, Stanford University and the Butler Institute of American Art.
Bright taught at YSU for 47 years. Alumna Mari Ann Cann said Bright always made time for his students.
“No matter what you painted, he would praise if it were the best painting he has ever seen,” she said.
Cann also praised Bright for helping bring out her creative side in her paintings.
“I still paint to this day,” Cann said. “He made me fall in love with painting, and here I am today, with a master’s in art.”
Kathryn Bernard, director of the Art Outreach Gallery, said Bright continued to be her mentor, even after she graduated from his classes.
“He guided me through my process as an artist and really helped me develop my own path in my career,” Bernard said.
Bright said he worked to help each student find his or her inner artist.
“Teaching to me is not putting something into an individual, but pulling something out of them that is already there,” Bright said. “It is important for someone to find his or her voice so they can bring out the best in themselves.”
Bryan DePoy, dean of the YSU College of Fine and Performing Arts, said Bright’s art reflected this individualism.
“Al will paint on a blank canvas as music plays in the background,” DePoy said. “He has painted during various live performances, including various orchestras and jazz trios.”
Bright has painted during performances by famous jazz musicians such as Wynton Marsalis, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Jimmy Owens and James Williams, to name a few.
“I try to take my work to the public so that they are engaged in the creative process with me,” Bright said. “I am painting to the rhythms, sounds and colors of the music, and the audience is a part of my free expression.”
YSU alumna Suzanne Gray said Bright has left a legacy at YSU.
“Al’s art has influenced art in our community more than anyone else has,” Gray said. “His legacy will also be on campus and inspire students for many years to come.”