March 14, 2019
BY MATT WUNSCH
To celebrate the arrival of spring, a collage of classes is underway at the Jamestown Arts Center that caters to everyone, from fledgling photographers to seasoned ceramists.
This season’s schedule includes classes with instructor Kevin Gilmore, a South Kingstown resident whose work can be seen in the current exhibit, “Cut & Paste: Collage Today.” Gilmore, who earned his master’s degree from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, will show students to express their creativity through collage. Gilmore said his approach to teaching is to shift the focus of instruction from him to the student.
“Art students come from such diverse backgrounds, skill levels, desires, urgencies,” he said. “So, my job is to challenge the students to discover their own voices.”
Gilmore credits his mentors with giving him the tools for self-expression, including his high school art teacher, Lucille Mota Costa. He said she was “a huge influence” on allowing him to view the world through his own eyes, which was “a crucial thing for a confused kid trying to find his own way.”
Gilmore also credited painter Bill Klenk, his professor at the University of Rhode Island, for teaching him the value “of putting in the work, even if at first it feels like a failure.” He hopes to pass on these artistic life lessons.
According to Gilmore, the arts center serves as a springboard for artists to share their work through exhibits, workshops and classes.
“The Jamestown Arts Center is a gem,” he said, “and the people make the place. You will find passion and dedication from all of the folks you run into when you pop in to the center. The workshop rooms, the clay studio, the exhibition space; all of it exudes such an inviting energy, and I am proud to take part in that.”
Gilmore said he welcomes the opportunity to share his experience with artists who might need direction.
“In its simplest form, I try and give the student a chance to explore their own creativity,” he said.
Maple Avenue’s Teddy Trocki-Ryba, a photographer and visual artist who graduated from Bard College in December 2017, will teach digital arts Thursday nights. He said his classes will demonstrate tools ranging from Adobe Suite, which includes InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop, to Tshirt design. He also will introduce students to 3-D printing and projection mapping. His penchant for teaching dates back to his high school days when he taught a ceramics course.
“I have worked with kids as a camp counselor since high school and try to treat my students like peers,” he said. “Many of my students come to class already with some knowledge of computer-based design. I try to work off of what they already know and are interested in so that they can learn the skills that are important and exciting to them.”
Trocki-Ryba said his own work focuses on creating 3-D models from real-life environments. He explores issues such as fragmentation of memory, the degradation of physical space over time and the ways in which perception of the spatial world is shaped by the failings of memory. He became an award-winning artist after capturing best in show at the center’s 2018 memberships exhibit.
“JAC is the best,” he said. “I can’t imagine where my art would be without it. Jamestown has a vibrant community of interesting artists and I am grateful to be a part of it.”
Elizabeth Congdon, a co-founder of the arts center, will share her self-described “painterly realism” techniques during a weekly open studio for all mediums of painting. She’ll also teach a class that is designs to teach people to describe verbally what they do visually.
“My teaching philosophy is based on having fun and working hard,” she said. “Painting is skill-based, so in a class you are building your skills. But engaging in any art is a pleasurable experience, something you do for yourself. As scary as trying something new might be, I encourage my students to quiet their inner critics and let go.”
Congdon, a resident of Pierce Avenue, has been a professional painter for almost 30 years. With a master’s degree in painting from the Laguna College of Art and Design in California, she is known for her landscapes and still lifes.
“I guide my students to work from the general to the specific,” she said. “That is, build up a visual work of art gradually, seeing the big picture before you get obsessed with detail. The eye has a language that speaks to our emotions and imaginations, and as an artist you have to figure out how to best capture that.”
As for her writing class, Congdon said it draws from the original spirit that the arts center was founded on: art disciplines are interconnected.
“Much of the class will focus on writing concise, expressive text to connect with our viewers and potential clients,” she said. “But we will also be doing fun exercises and journaling to spark our creativity, silence the inner critic, make breakthroughs, and work through creative blocks.”
Congdon said that the center has blossomed as an organization since its inception.
“I love the way JAC is always changing, depending on who is around to work there, teach, perform or exhibit,” she said. “As a cofounder, the best thing in the world for me is to walk in the door and no one knows who I am, because that feels like the organization is its own thriving entity. But I also always feel like I am coming home, and I love meeting my old friends there.”
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