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MWPAI to offer Community Arts Education classes for all ages

Nicole A. Hawley
Staff writer
email / twitter
Posted 8/11/22

From fashion sewing classes and ceramics, to drawing, jewelry making, studio painting and a Welding for Women intro class in sculpture, Munson-Williams Proctor Arts Institute fall Community …

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MWPAI to offer Community Arts Education classes for all ages


UTICA — From fashion sewing classes and ceramics, to drawing, jewelry making, studio painting and a Welding for Women intro class in sculpture, Munson-Williams Proctor Arts Institute fall Community Arts Education classes offer “something out of the box.”

Whether a beginner, intermediate or advanced arts student, MWPAI is offering 58 classes in a variety of mediums during the fall semester. Post-pandemic, Community Arts Education Director Audrey Hasen Taylor said the community arts school is working to up its level of offerings and class sizes by reintegrating short workshops into its schedule of longer, more committed 12-week courses.

“We have long, 12-week courses where people can come in once-a-week, and get invested in what they’re learning, and we see them for the full semester,” said Taylor. “We also have a new school model where we offer 6- and 8-week classes, or even mini courses where people come in for four sessions, once-a-week. And there’s also our 1-2 session workshops.”

What makes MWPAI institute unique is that other college campuses may offer a limited number of courses in more popular mediums like painting and drawing, but the arts institute offers a variety of specialized arts courses unique to the school and area. Classes are beginner-friendly and not intimidating, so that artists can build their skills and craft in a supportive community for people of all ages, Taylor said.

Among MWPAI’s more unique course load is Fashion Sewing for Beginners which starts Sept. 20 and runs through Dec. 13. Instructed by fashion designer Niki English, who moved to the area from New York City pre-pandemic, the class teaches students how to read paper patterns and discover the basics of a sewing machine. Taylor said machines are provided by the school, as well as a variety of fabric that was donated.

English “has quite a background in fashion,” Taylor described. “She works for a design house remotely, designing adult and kids’ clothing. So we are really lucky to have her.”

For the beginner class, “We provide all the stuff needed to teach people how to read patterns and make fabric decisions as everyone works on a similar class project,” she said. “It’s not just learning a craft, it delves deeper for students also interested in learning the history of their art.”

New classes include Ashley Peretin’s Digital Illustration and Digital Animation courses. The intro course builds on students’ natural skills by teaching how to create images in a digital environment. Using programs such as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign, students learn how to create custom illustrative tools and brushes, apply realistic textures and shading, and ultimately blend classical artistic principles with digital technology. Peretin studied in the UK.

“Particularly with the Digital Illustration class, anyone can benefit by taking their current art medium and transforming it to digital,” said Taylor.

Welding for Women, instructed by Shannon Nisiewicz, is a one-day workshop to be held Oct. 8 where not just women, but all beginners, can conquer their fears and discover the joys of welding and using metal-working equipment in a safe, friendly and supportive environment, Taylor said. Students will learn the basics of metal fabrication as they gain hands-on experience with the mig welder, metal saw, plasma-cutter and more.

The workshop is for students “to learn confidence with the machines involved in welding and learn all the processes involved” in the art form, explained Taylor. “We actually have a waiting list for the welding workshop. It’s for anyone who wants to learn the basics in an unintimidating environment, where they can ask questions and learn as a group.”

MWPAI is also offering two professional development courses led by Tina Dillman. In Daily Life: Professional Development for Working Creatives, participants age 18 and older will attack creative goals in a 6-week series that focuses on developing soft and hard skills for those who desire to establish an artistic business or expand on business skills by following their dreams. Each week focuses on a different topic through lectures, skill sharing, discussions, and special guests from the community. Topics include: self care, making money, engagement, building an audience and sustaining and thriving.

Another professional development workshop focuses on how non-profits operate during a weekend retreat, Taylor added.

In the Inktober Workshop featuring Retro Sorrento on Oct. 15, students will learn pen and ink drawing, and illustration. Taylor said Retro Sorrento, otherwise known as Maria, is responsible for designing the art and labels for F.X. Matt Brewing Co. in Utica.

And besides more traditional intro courses in ceramics, watercolor and drawing, MWPAI is also offering a full roster of kids’ classes. The six-week sessions typically meet 9-11:30 a.m. on Saturdays, with classes for ages 4-5 meeting 9-10:30 a.m., with scholarships available.

There is also a Drawing Portfolio Development course geared for high school teens to help prepare them in case they’re interested in pursuing a career in art.

“We work in visits from Pratt School counselors to teach students what arts colleges are looking for, including Pratt, and teach them about the admissions process,” said Taylor.

There is also the PrattMWP Artist in Residence program featuring ceramics artist and sculptor Dehmie Dehmlow, of Colorado, in 2022-23.

Dehmlow received her master’s of fine arts degree in ceramics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a bachelor’s of arts degree in ceramics and pre-medical sciences from Colorado State University. Her work has been in juried shows and exhibitions nationally, and has worked as a ceramics intern at Anderson Ranch Arts Center. She was selected as the 2019 Salad Days Artist in Residence at Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts in Newcastle, Maine.

Taylor said Dehmlow will be teaching intermediate and advanced ceramics classes at both Pratt and as part of the Community Arts Education program. And her works will also be featured in the Museum of Art.

“I love our Community Arts classes because we’re able to pull in artists and instructors and let them build out their classes to be something they not only love, but something through which they are able to connect their passion with the community. And then the community has the opportunity to come in and check that out,” Taylor said. “We do have scholarships available for all ages. We had free kids and teen classes offered this summer, and they can still come back and take free classes this fall. If their families tell us they need help, we can make it happen.”



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