It was a starry, starry evening Thursday at the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas as two stellar exhibits opened. One features jazz stars and the others stars of the celestial kind. The works are by two artists with Pine Bluff connections: Al White and Don Shaw.

It was a starry, starry evening Thursday at the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas as two stellar exhibits opened. One features jazz stars and the others stars of the celestial kind. The works are by two artists with Pine Bluff connections: Al White and Don Shaw.

Born in Boston, Shaw has had a long and varied career as an artist and educator. He called Pine Bluff home and had a studio on Barraque Street for 20 years. He currently lives in the mountains above Santa Fe, N.M. His arts center exhibit, which will be on display until June 30, is titled Shaw: Constellations and Night Stars.

Shaw said the inspiration for the artwork comes from the skies above his home.

“Where I live in New Mexico, there is no ambient light,” he said. “When you look up, you can see 10 billion stars and I said ‘I’ve got to draw them.’ I tried to draw them like you actually see them.”

Shaw’s charcoal drawings of stars have an element of movement created through various textures on paper. His constellations in copper plate framed by gold leaf have an almost three-dimensional quality.

“It looks like you’re looking at them through a 1920s telescope,” he explained. “Telescopes weren’t round in those days. They made them boxlike.”

Shaw’s work has been exhibited at museums in the United States and abroad and his art can be seen in public collections in Arkansas, California, Colorado, New Mexico, New York, Texas and Virginia. In Arkansas, sculptures or two dimensional pieces can be viewed at the Arkansas Arts Center and Bio-Medical Research Center in Little Rock, Hendrix College in Conway, Lyon College in Batesville, University of Arkansas Community College at Hope and Bank of America in Pine Bluff.

Carolyn Theis was among those who viewed Shaw’s work at the Arts and Science Thursday.

“The Don Shaw exhibit is very exciting,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect. It’s a very different approach to the cosmos. Both the copper and the charcoal were mind boggling.”

Guests arriving at the reception for the two artists with Pine Bluff connections were greeted with jubilant music. Faron Wilson played piano while photographer and musician Al White played drums.

A selection of White’s original photographs from his book, Jazz Party, is on exhibition at the arts center through June 30. The Pine Bluff native picked up drumsticks and began to play at an early age. His heroes were musicians like trumpeter Bunny Berigan. A voracious jazz fan, White traveled the country to watch and take pictures of his favorite musicians.

“I’ve been taking pictures for about 50 years,” he said. “I’ve loved jazz since I was a little boy. My parents gave me this drum set right here in 1938 for Christmas.”

White worked as a cotton buyer in Pine Bluff but his passion was jazz. He attended “jazz parties” — sophisticated jam sessions across the country — and collected thousands of photographs. He would often get them signed by the various jazz artists.

White offers commentary on the photos on display at the arts center, helping to paint an even more vivid picture of the various jazz musicians.

For example, beside a photo of George Masso taken in Pensacola, Fla., in 1990, he writes: “George Masso is not only a master jazz musicians but of all the jazz men I have known, he is the nicest and kindest. If he spots me while warming up at a jazz party, he points his trombone at me and plays the first few bars of “The Arkansas Traveler.”

Many of the photos on display depict jazz men in the midst of playing their chosen instrument. For instance, Billy Butterfield is captured intently puffing on his trumpet while a grinning Milt Hilton is pictured strumming on his bass beside other musicians.

Ginny Clement of Pine Bluff said she enjoyed seeing White’s original images.

“I’m very impressed,” she said. “We’ve had his book for a few years now and it’s nice to see (his photos) displayed around the room. It’s the first time I’ve gotten to see his (original) work and it’s really spectacular.”

Visitors also got a glimpse of White in a documentary that was being shown on a laptop computer. The film, titled Jazz and Jazz in the Delta, is by New Vision Media and Black Butterfly Inc.

White said he appreciates the Arts and Science Center as well as the support of George Talbot for the photography show. Both the Shaw and White exhibits are made possible through the support of Talbot Capital Management Inc. of Pine Bluff.