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Collective Wander photography conference culminates in Oxford with art show

By Allen Brewer

Photos from Cuba and Iceland that were taken by local photographers were the focus of the Collective Wander art show on Thursday.

The event was hosted in Small Hall by the Yoknapatawpha Art Council. Both professional and novice photographers, locals and visitors, gathered together to discuss their travels and pictures.

“Some of those who don’t see themselves as artists got to exhibit their work,” Danny Klimetz, founder of Collective Wander, said. “This was an opportunity for them to see their work hung on a wall and for people in the community to see their work.”

Collective Wander is a travel-organizing group that is open to individuals of all creative backgrounds. Members travel to foreign destinations to experience an adventure with a group of like-minded strangers.

Travel destinations include Cuba, which has been toured by the program for the past three years. Travelers got to stay in the homes of native families and experience the country firsthand.

“Since I’ve been so many times and have created so many relationships, it is a chance for me to show what an amazing place Cuba is,” Milly West, one of the members of Collective Wander, said.

West has personally visited Cuba 38 times in 22 years. She leads the tour group to Cuba once a year.

“I thought traveling with people I don’t know was fun,”  Chrissy Gintery said. “The Cuban people were some of the warmest people I have ever met.”

Some travelers recently got the chance to tour Iceland. The snow-covered landscape provided a winter wonderland of photos that contrasted the sunny, tropical island of Cuba.

“We had a beautiful time (in Iceland),” Lisa Hibbert, a photographer from New Jersey, said. “It is the only place I think I would like to revisit.”

Many of the people who travel with the group are painters and professional photographers. Their experience travels by word-of-mouth to other artists who also want to go on an adventure.

“I just kinda jumped on the trip,” Hibbert said. “I knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who had been on this trip. We are all of a like mind.”

While the art show featured the work on previous  Collective Wander trips, current travelers were wrapping up their tour of Oxford. This week’s Collective Wander was organized in part by the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, with the aim of bringing professionals together to share their experiences and learn about Mississippi culture.

“I think this was a perfect mix of conference and culture,”  Wayne Andrews, director of YAC said. “Instead of just lectures, visitors got to travel around and see our great landscapes and history.”

Travelers stayed a week in Oxford, some with local families. Wanderers also got the chance to visit other sites in Mississippi such as Clarksdale.

Travelers do not have to be artists to attend a tour. Those interested in traveling to Cuba or other destinations can contact West at www.millywestart.com for more information.