A photo of a dancer at Shanon Stibor’s studio.
A photo of a dancer at Shanon Stibor’s studio. (Courtesy of Shannon Stibor)

Both Cheryl Widener and Shanon Stibor expect to continue this partnership after COVID.

A local Jewish fine artist, Cheryl Widener, and a local Jewish dance studio owner and teacher, Shanon Stibor, have teamed up in the face of the pandemic to bring a heightened level of excitement, visibility and opportunity to their respective businesses.

Widener reached out to Stibor, who owns and runs Shanon’s Dance Studio in Keego Harbor, through a business posting on a Facebook Jewish women’s networking group.

Cheryl Widener
Cheryl Widener

“My proposal to her was that we collaborate on a project offering her students an opportunity to have me paint them either in dance pose or portrait,” Widener said. “The goal is not only for me to create the paintings but for us to both promote each other and perhaps more importantly, keep her student and parent body excited to return to her dance studio when it’s safe post-COVID.”

The pandemic has affected both Stibor and Widener, with Stibor’s enrollment dropping and the studio being open to only a few students at a time, and Widener having a hairdressing business that she decided to shut down.

“I know I’m having a hard time because of COVID – my guess was she’s probably having a hard time because of COVID as well, and maybe we could help each other out,” Widener said of the decision to reach out. “It just clicked. I paint dancers and do portraits of children, and I wondered if she’d be interested in a collaboration.”

Widener, who produces and sells her art as Widener Fine Art in West Bloomfield with her husband, Tim, has already produced a hype video announcing the collaboration, showing both her work and Stibor’s students stoking the poses of her already-done paintings.

“We’re going to be introducing the video to her parent body,” Widener said. “I discovered with COVID that so many people want portraits of their grandchildren, because they can’t visit their grandchildren right now. One portrait that I did, the grandmother looked at it and she started sobbing, she said not only did it look like her granddaughter, it felt like her.”

Stibor, who has over 35 years of dance experience and more than 25 years of teaching experience, currently has a few students coming in for private, 1-on-1 lessons. All of the other lessons happen virtually through Zoom.

Widener hasn’t visited the studio yet due to COVID concerns, but the hope is she can visit and paint the students in-person once it becomes safe to do so, and possibly outside when the weather gets warmer.

An example of Cheryl Widener’s artwork.
An example of Cheryl Widener’s artwork. Courtesy of Cheryl Widener
A Rewarding Partnership

Both Widener and Stibor expect to continue this partnership after COVID.

“When you first reach out to somebody, you don’t know how well received the idea is going to be, but when two artists’ minds and energies match, everybody gets so excited,” Widener said.

“That’s one of the most rewarding things about this, feeling that excitement bounce off of somebody else.”

Shanon Stibor
Shanon Stibor

Stibor, who opened her studio 18 years ago, believes the partnership provides the ability to do something different for her students in such a stagnant time.

“I want to give them something else,” Stibor said. “I know they love performing, they love having their pictures taken, doing the poses in the costumes and getting all made up. So, it’s something extra for them to mentally make them feel better, but also to bring recognition to the arts because I know that gets pushed aside a lot in schools.”

Both Stibor and Widener believe partnerships are crucial in times like these.

“We have to support each other, being women, being Jewish women and being in the arts, I feel like all of those are kind of minority things,” Stibor said. “So, it’s bringing all of that together, and it’s something we’re really excited about.”

You can find Stibor’s studio at www.shanonsdance.com and Widener’s work at www.widenerfineart.com.

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