Popopstudios Opens Registration For April Art Classes

By in News on February 20, 2012

Margot Bethel’s woodworking class is geared specifically towards women in order to give them useful hands-on carpentry skills in a safe environment. Photo by the Nassau Guardian

Popopstudios International Center for the Visual Arts started ofJanf 2012 with the first round of formal art classes taught by professional local artists. With those classes successfully coming to a close, the institution is looking ahead at their next round, where they will continue to offer some of the same that made their first semester so successful, as well as some new options that will continue to define Popopstudios as a major art institution in the country.

With five new classes – Art of Drawing with John Cox (Mondays 6-9 p.m.); Intaglio (Etching) with Holly Parotti (Wednesdays 6-9 p.m.); Textiles with Jan Elliott (Wednesdays 10 a.m.-1 p.m.); Woodworking for Women with Margot Bethel (Thursdays 10 a.m.-1 p.m.); and Multimedia with Heino Schmid (Saturdays 10 a.m.-1 p.m.) – Popopstudios continues to offer basic foundation classes with a mix of specialized and non-traditional options, explains Popop’s Educational Officer, Katrina Cartwright.

“I do endeavour to create a curriculum where we have an ideal foundation. Then having some other courses that stem from those and that are non-traditional are great because it takes us out of the realm of what we normally think of as art,” she says.

“Having Jan teach a textiles course this time is wonderful because textiles are not always seen as an art form. So what I really want to do is create an environment where people can come and try all art forms.”

This time they’re also aiming to appeal to an even wider cross-section of Bahamian society by making their multimedia class – taught by Heino Schmid – geared towards art instructors. Such a class will encourage these instructors to build their own artistic practice, allowing that to inform their quality of work, points out Director of Popopstudios CVA John Cox.

“I think a lot of art educators don’t practice and I think the way they form their information is less through experience and more through traditional academic means, but something gets lost there and I think we can help fill those gaps,” he says.

“So we want to be fundamental and deal with those kinds of foundations but we also want to be dynamic and contemporary as well and engage fresh art practice.”

Indeed the classes tie into Popop’s collaborative structure as an institution – by networking with other galleries locally and internationally, as well as encouraging a teaching practice from their local and international residential artists, the classes become part of a collective effort to tap into and inform creative conversations. Students taking part in these classes not only will find themselves part of this vital conversation, but will also find themselves as vital parts of its growth.

“I think that the way forward for education in general is about dialogue and exchange, more so than it is about repetition,” says Cox. “So we need to adapt, we need to listen to the needs of the people interested in taking these courses, and we need to have enough confidence to project what we think the art community needs.”

Not only that, but students can feel free to take a class without the need to just jump through hoops – the classes are not connected to a larger degree program, and can be accessed by anyone at all with a willingness to learn and have fun.

What exciting is that their first set of classes has already brought into the Popop art community a diverse cross section of the Bahamian public. Even though classes are filled with students at different levels of practice coming from different backgrounds; everyone learns something new from each session, says Cox, whose drawing class has been offering great foundational skills.

“I think that the greatest thing about my class is that there are 10 people who are comfortable with one another and who are at different levels – for some its their first formal instruction since college and others are quite experienced. But the overall dynamic of the class is really comfortable,” he says.

“It’s something that brings people together and it moves us away from that idea of art being the subject of – that art is an empty vessel, but every other subject under the sun is the subject of art,” he continues. “I think people are much closer to these processes than they understand; I think all we do is help reveal, to remove those barriers that help them to engage the work more easily.”

For Margot Bethel, whose woodworking class is geared specifically towards women in order to give them useful hands-on carpentry skills in that same kind of safe environment, her classes are not only a time to teach but to help her students problem solve personal projects.

“It takes a while to get the basics down, but I’m willing to help students with other personal projects as we go along,” she says. “I can be a consultant and help them each with their own goals.”

For Holly Parotti – whose Intaglio course will offer an in-depth look to this printmaking technique and which will take a departure from her current class, Introduction to Printmaking – the classes at Popop offer a chance for students from different backgrounds with different desires to tap into a similar creative goal.

“I have a florist, a quilt-maker, a fashion designer – I call my group the most diversified because I only have one Bahamian in it,” she says. “I think beyond giving you something to do, the classes open up a different perspective and lend an insight to appreciate and understand a process more.

You can experience work within the Popop community and create work within the community, and it’s necessary to just keep that creative circle going.”

Whether wishing to reconnect with an old creative outlet, craving to try something new, or just hoping to become part of a creative community of like-minded individuals, students who have been attending the classes and who they can continue to expect to register have brought accessibility and an exciting new energy to an art community often viewed as insular.

“It’s wonderful because I was worried we’d just see the regulars,” says Cartwright. “So being able to see people coming in from all walks of life who have such a positive attitude and who enjoy the classes so much, it lets us know that we’re heading in the right direction.”

“I would say to the general public that if you’ve ever had an interest in trying any of these art practices, this is an opportunity to become a part of something bigger,” she continues. “Once you become part of the family here, even if you chose not to take another semester here, you’ll always know what’s happening, you’ll always be able to participate in anything we have going on around here. Being a friend of Popop will help you learn more about what’s happening and how you can help.”

Classes begin in April but registration is now open. To find out more or to register, check out www.popopstudios.com or call 322-7834.

Sonia Farmer
The Nassau Guardian
Arts & Culture
Published: Saturday, February 17, 2012

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