Grace West brings life to her grandmother’s artwork


Rob Le Cates

Wanting to practice her curation skills, Grace West, a graduate student studying art, compiled an exhibit showing off her grandmother’s work at the Doudna Fine Arts Center earlier in November. West said through compiling her grandmother’s work, seeing the love and dedication reinforced her grandmother’s talent in her mind.

Cam'ron Hardy, Campus Events Junior Editor

Grace West, a graduate student majoring in art, hosted an exhibit representing her grandmother’s work, Vonda West.  

Vonda West is from southern Tennessee and Grace describes her as “the most loving person ever.” All of the pieces presented in the art exhibit were handcrafted by Vonda, which were originally made for her family members.  

Vonda gained experience while growing up on a farm and watching her mother create newspaper and clothing patterns. She used her ability to create gowns and dresses for her children. Vonda was also a musical artist and said that she had written over 100 songs.  

Grace describes her grandmother as very humble. She never showed off the pieces herself, so West took it upon herself to show it off, with her grandmother’s approval. 

Grace said she was inspired in September, when she was at Jackson Avenue Coffee and saw someone else displaying their deceased mothers work. Putting the exhibit together only took two months.  

“It kind of got me thinking,” Grace said. “I know that my grandma has made work of her own, and she’s still alive, so maybe it would be cool to get her feedback while she’s still around. She sent me her stories [about the pieces].” 

Grace West, a graduate student studying art, said one thing her grandmother Vonda is known for is creating beautiful images of roses which West learned how to draw from her grandmother. (Rob Le Cates)

Grace completed her undergraduate at Eastern and is currently a graduate student. She decided to bring the exhibit to Eastern because she thought the students would be open to an event like this.  

West said a lot of people showed up to the event and asked great questions. She thinks that it was different for a younger audience to show up to an event such as this. 

Eventually, Vonda would work for a wedding dressmaker and would do alterations, so that she could help pay for her child’s wedding dress, according to Grace. 

“Even when she was working, she was doing it for somebody else, which is really a beautiful thing,” Grace said.   

Vonda, Grace West, a graduate arts student, 81-year-old grandmother, made dresses for her daughter all throughout her life including special events like her wedding and high school homecomings. (Rob Le Cates)

Multiple dresses for her family and clothes for the dolls that Vonda created while growing up were shown at the exhibit. Cakes from her special recipe were also shown.  

Grace West is currently an art student and said that her grandmother showed her how to draw.  

“She taught me how to draw a basic rose, which I’m really fond of that memory,” West said. “Sometimes when I’m just doodling on notes, I just draw that rose again. She kind of sparked the art side of me, which has just been progressing my whole self basically. I’m all art now.” 

Grace uses some of the techniques that her grandmother has shown her in her own art pieces.  

Julie Miller, daughter of Vonda and aunt of Grace, talked positively about her mother and niece. 

“[Grace] is just an amazing human being,” Miller said. “Full of love and laughter and truly an inspiration. I just enjoy being around her. and I think she gets a lot of that from her grandmother.” 

Miller said her and her siblings never had a lot of money growing up. Now as an adult, it did not matter to her because she was able to be close to her family. 

When Vonda was younger, she would create paper dolls for her younger siblings, which were present at the exhibit, but the passion followed when she had grandchildren, leading her to continue making the dolls for them.  

“She put a lot of time and effort into anything that she did, for not only me, but also for my brothers,” Miller said.  

Miller recalled a specific memory of having her mother create a dress for her school dances, and she was the “envy” of many girls. hat they wanted to borrow the dress but only her friend was able to. She found her mother’s attention to detail admirable which allowed her to feel loved.  

Miller said it “brought tears to her eyes” seeing all of the pieces her grandmother created for her at the exhibit.  

81-year-old Vonda has always been a family-oriented woman who created many pieces of art expressing her love while avoiding expensive price tags. Vonda stiched together dresses for her daughter’s homecomings and wedding, each with specific flares to suit the occassion. (Rob Le Cates)

Miller said she was very fortunate to have a caring and loving mother, she said that her mother put her family above everything, including herself.  

“She’s a very godly woman… She is the epitome of a true mother and wife,” Miller said.  

Miller also said that she had a great admiration for her mother and that Grace is just overall an amazing person. 

“[Grace] takes what she learned from her grandmother and actually came full circle and brought it back to honor her grandmother in such a wonderful way,” Miller said. “I’m just so proud of Grace.” 

Grace hopes that audience members think of their own family members at the exhibit. She hopes it allows them to think of things that are not the typical art pieces people see in art galleries.  

“I want them to kind of rethink the definition of what art is,” Grace said. “There’s this whole dynamic layer, story writing, storytelling, cooking, baking, all these things that people just kind of overlook. So, I’m trying to showcase that in this art show, that there’s something to the home life that is actually very art oriented.” 


Cam’ron Hardy can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].