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Art exhibit showcased at Lake Lily

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Go to any bookstore and you'll likely find a book on interpreting dreams. Where you won't find such literature is Jacob Sheppard's bookshelf. He'd rather illustrate them.

"They're just so interesting that I write them down or I draw some things," said Sheppard, who uses his dreams as a source of inspiration for his artwork.

Dreams also made the art exhibit dubbed Maximum Capacity. Located in The Villages at Lake Lily in Maitland, Maximum Capacity is a fine example of what happens when you give 32 student-artists from the University of Central Florida about 8,000 square feet of space and a wealth of freedom to show off their talents.

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One of artist Kathleen Westerfield's comic heroes leaps through the air at the Maximum Capacity art exhibit.

The exhibit will be open from noon to 8 p.m. through Sunday, April 18, with the possibility of an extension.

"Everything you see in this room, in here, was built by them, except the concrete. That's the gospel truth," said Robert Reedy, UCF professor of art. "They built the pedestals; they built the walls; they did all the lighting, and you're talking about people that have never touched sheet rock and lumber before, some of them."

Before graduating, all art students must, with the exception of those specializing in graphic design, participate in the BFA exhibit/seminar. The final exhibition is typically held in the gallery inside the Visual Arts Building during the week of final exams. This year, students voted to have it at an off-campus site with the understanding they would do everything on their own.

"We just turned 'em loose on this, and I've never seen anything like this in my life," said Reedy, who has been teaching at UCF for 18 years.

Jon C. Wood, president of Urbanscape Properties Inc, developers of the Village of Lake Lily and board member on the Maitland Historical Society, Les Jarvela, former president of the Maitland Arts Center's Associate Board, and Reedy decided would serve as the temporary home for the work of the young artists to benefit the art community.

Once the location had been established, the students had to work on everything from constructing the walls that their artwork would be displayed upon to obtaining the right permits to advertising for the exhibition.

"The hardest part was probably dealing with the bureaucracy that's involved with everything," said Matthew Sutherland, one of the artists. "I think the fire marshal had to come out six times to correct us."

When the exhibit was completed, the students opened the doors for a reception that ran from 8 p.m. to midnight last Friday and drew a crowd of more than 600 art enthusiasts. A second reception the following night also drew hundreds of people.

"This is a huge step for all of us in being professional artists," said Whitney Broadaway, another one of the 32 artists. "We're able to meet a lot of people and a lot of potential customers and maybe even a lucky few of us will get some patronage for the long term."

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For each of the 32 artists, Maximum Capacity has been a learning experience, which is exactly what Reedy had hoped for.

Fellow artist and friend Molly Bender, who sold a piece for $800, said she enjoyed the camaraderie shared among the artists.

"The best part has been sharing in everybody's successes," said Bender. "Hearing that Whitney has sold a piece is just as exciting as when I sold a piece, so being able to share in that joy and excitement and see that other people are interested in anybody's work is, I think, the best part."

For each of the 32 artists, Maximum Capacity has been a learning experience, which is exactly what Reedy had hoped for.

"All this kind of sprung out of a philosophy that I'm trying to bring back to education, which is preparing students for real world experiences and entry into the business of art," Reedy said.

"We're able to figure out how to work in a real world environment and all the trials and tribulations that come with that," said Sutherland. "After this, they're going to have all of the BFA shows off campus just because of the learning experience. It's something that you really can't be taught."

Check it out:

Maximum Capacity, 32 artists in one apartment, will be open at least through Sunday, April 18, from noon to 8 p.m. at the Village at Lake Lily, 903 Lake Lily Drive in Maitland.

Visit their Facebook page, Maximum Capacity Art Exhibition, for more information.