"A Show Of Strength," From Leslie Hudson-Tolles, For Friends And Former Neighbors

“One of my horses ... strong, quiet, gentle ... very sensitive," is how artist Leslie Hudson-Tolles describes this new painting, which is very typical of the equestrian art the former Newtown resident is known for. Ms Hudson-Tolles will be returning to town for an exhibition of her work at Koenig FrameWorks, April 26-31.

Former longtime Newtown resident Leslie Hudson-Tolles will have a one-woman exhibit of her paintings at Koenig FrameWorks, April 26-May 31.

Ms Hudson-Tolles moved to Newtown in 1977 and stayed for over 30 years. She was one of the three original founders of Newtown Bridle Lanes Association, and was able to transfer her love of horses and the equestrian world into a career as both artist and teacher.

“I chose Newtown for the school system and because they were horse friendly. I liked the fact that there was a town center and a real sense of community,” she said recently via email from her home and studio in North Carolina. “My girls received a great education there and I had and have a terrific support group of neighbors and friends as I raised my girls.

“The only reason I left was the best reason: love. After my girls were in college, I married the man I had met as a teenager on a mission trip,” she continued. Leslie Hudson-Tolles and that man, Richard Rouse, were married at Newtown United Methodist Church on March 30, 2006. Five months later the couple — “along with horses, dogs, cats, and all the art and the studio,” she said — moved to Faith, N.C., where Ms Hudson-Tolles continued to teach art in the public schools.

The couple moved in December to Cleveland, N.C. Ms Hudson-Tolles is still teaching, at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Salisbury, N.C., and maintains a large teaching studio in her home.

While primarily an equine artist, Ms Hudson-Tolles also draws and paints other animals, and is well known for her portraits. Regardless of the move away from Newtown a few years ago, Ms Hudson-Tolles says she has “remained very connected with Newtown. I visit summers and talk to friends regularly. I had returned for an art show three years ago at Koenig’s Frameworks Gallery.”

While visiting the area last summer (“The promise I got from Richard,” she told The Bee recently, “was that we would return every summer.”),  Ms Hudson-Tolles reconnected with Koenig FrameWorks gallery owner Casper Sabatino and Alegre Poniros, manager, and scheduled a one-woman show for this spring.


“Everything Changed”

A few months ago, Ms Hudson-Tolles was, along with friends, unpacking from her latest move.

“Everything changed on 12/14. For Newtown, for the world, for me,” she said. “Friends were helping me unpack … and I ignored my phone until the calls became constant, and I noticed they were all from home, 203 numbers.”

When she finally answered the phone that day, Ms Hudson-Tolles was told by a friend to turn on her television.

“I imagine that a similar scenario was repeated all over the country,” she said, “all over the world, but more so by those having roots in Newtown.”

Ms Hudson-Tolles called her daughters — Lindsay, a technician at an animal hospital in Virginia, and Alyssa, a clinical social worker at a state mental hospital in North Carolina — “and we cried together,” she said. “There were months of late night calls to home, checking in with friends and neighbors and the overwhelming urge to go home and help ... and the awareness that there was nothing we could do and the last thing Newtown needed was another ‘visitor.’”

After decades of teaching art and creating art, Ms Hudson-Tolles is very aware, she said, of the therapeutic value of art.

“I am surrounded by woods here as I was in Newtown and found myself drawn to the enduring quality of the trees, some bent and broken by the storms,” she said. With that in mind, she has created a collection of more than 30 pieces for the upcoming Newtown exhibition, which she is calling “A Show of Strength.”

“Lots of painted and rendered trees. Symbols of endurance. Beautiful in their survival. Standing after the lightning struck,” she said. “And a young bull, an Angus Bull... and always the horses, strong beautiful, sensitive.

“I am coming home in the hopes that my images of strength and renewal can in some small way help corners of our hearts heal,” said Ms Hudson-Tolles. “To let Newtown know that they are on our minds, in our hearts.”

The show will open with a reception on Friday, April 26, from 5 to 7:30 pm. Ms Hudson-Tolles will also offer an artist’s talk at the gallery, located at 97 Main Street South, on Saturday, April 27, at noon.

A portion of profits from the sale of any work in the exhibition will be donated by Ms Hudson-Tolles to The Newtown Rotary Club’s Sandy Hook School Fund. The fund, administered by the 501(c)(3) Newtown Rotary Foundation, “is dedicated to the victims of the Sandy Hook School tragedy, their families and those in the Newtown community who have been affected, to help support both their short term and long term needs,” according to Rotary’s website.

The framing gallery and exhibition space is open Monday through Saturday from 10 am until 5 pm. Call 203-270-1887 or visit KoenigFrameworks.com for additional information.

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