Adult Arts Educationby Vanessa Lundgren & Tessa Blanchfield
/ September 4, 2007
Drawing upon a rich life experience:
Adults get creative in art class
Ever wonder where to go for art
classes in the city? Whether you’re working full-time and raising
a family, or if you’re retired and want to express yourself,
two Montreal art centres can give you an
opportunity to pick up that paintbrush and learn a trick or two
from an experienced artist.
The Visual Arts Centre and
Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors are two places where you can take
a wide range of art classes for adults wanting to discover their inner
Elisabeth Galante, the Fine
and Applied Arts program director at the Visual Arts Centre, explains
that adult students offer “a richness of expression” to their creative
work because they are able to draw upon their varied life experience.
“It’s often not a casual
interest ... at this point in their life,” says Galante. “They’re
very motivated to learn, and I feel I’m very privileged to be involved
in these artistic self-discoveries.” Born in New York and educated
at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, Indiana University and Concordia University,
Galante has been teaching at the centre for 25 years.
Apart from her responsibilities
as director, Galante teaches drawing and watercolour classes at the
centre. Like her, all the teachers are professional artists who are
passionate about sharing their interests with students with regards
to new mediums, techniques and ways of thinking.
“Our school is unique,”
she says. “We call it ‘an alternative art school’. It’s
not part of the university program. It’s not an accredited program.
We don’t grade our students. There are no exams. So it’s a great
program for people who want to study the arts outside of an academic
type of environment. Anyone can come to this school.”
The Centre offers a broad
range of courses at all levels, from painting to ceramics. Class
sizes are small, with a maximum number of 15 students in an average
class. This is designed for greater interaction with the teacher,
she explains. Students are encouraged to fully engage with the teacher,
lessons and materials.
“It’s not pure relaxation,”
Galante says. “It takes you out of yourself — your day-to-day thoughts,
your normal preoccupations. So it’s not relaxing in the sense of ‘easy’.
It’s hard work. Time has no meaning when you start drawing or
painting. The three hours of the class pass quickly. Before you know
it, it’s over and you wish you had three more hours.”
Therese Weinberger and Joanne
Bolduc study watercolour under Galante. They’re serious about their
art — so serious that they’ve formed a collective dubbed “Our
Group.” They’re organizing their first independent exhibition and
hope to launch it within a year. Weinberger says that the group is made
up of 10 members who are all women and all from diverse backgrounds.
When it comes to the question
of ‘Why take art classes?’ Weinberger answers “Why not?”
“It’s an expression of
the inside of me and it’s something that I need to do now.” says
Weinberger and Bolduc are
both passionate about their chosen medium. They speak excitedly about
the challenges in watercolour and in finding a creative vision.
Dr. Gwen Spurll, another
member of Our Group, also finds an outlet of expression in paint.
Director of the Hematology Laboratories at the Royal Victoria Hospital
and a mother, Dr. Spurll finds time to paint on weekends. It’s her
time of solace.
Diagnosed with Parkinson’s
in 2005, Dr. Spurll says that it was her condition that motivated her
interest in painting.
“It offers a way of expressing
what I’m feeling. It also one of the few times when I forget what’s
going on,” she says.
Celia Gordon, 83, considers
her art workshops at the Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors to be empowering.
She started out as an arts and crafts volunteer some 40 years ago, working
for the late Anne Greenstein, founder of the facility’s thriving Fine
Dedicated to clay sculpture,
she routinely donates her pieces to the craft sale held every November
at the Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors.
“It’s a very nurturing,
safe community,” says Suzy Levy, supervisor at the Fine Arts/Craft
Centre. She mentions that the facility’s oldest student is 102.
Registration for fall classes at both
the Visual Arts Centre and Cummings Centre have already begun. For classes
at the Visual Arts Centre, call 514-488-9558 or visit www.visualartscentre.ca.
If you are interested in attending classes at the Cummings Jewish Centre
for Seniors, call 514-342-1234 or visit their website at www.cummingscentre.org.
The romance of ballet
– for adults
Ballet classes conjure up the
grace and elegance of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and the Dance
of the Sugar Plum Fairy. For some women, playing Clara in the
National Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker remains a dream.
For other lucky dancers, the romance of ballet becomes a reality with
Founded in 1991, Ballet Divertimento
has been offering adult dance classes since its inception. According
to general director Susan Alexander, the introduction to ballet course
for adults is so popular, that they have had to put clients on a waiting
The school offers all levels
of ballet courses to adults, and a chance to work in a professional
atmosphere. Alexander explains: “Many professional dancers who need
to prepare for a show, or who may be pregnant or
taking a hiatus, practice with the adult advanced class and dance with
the other students.”
Parents enrolling their children
in ballet for kids are pleased to discover that they can learn ballet
as well, at levels ranging from beginners to advanced. There are many
parent-child students at Divertimento, as well. In fact, the school
is so attuned to its clientele that when parents started talking about
flamenco classes, a course was created especially for them.
Divertimento also teaches
ballet jazz, a type of dance unique to Montreal. Alexander describes
it as a “Broadway style of jazz and ballet,” whose popularity has
only grown with time.
Men and women of all ages,
from their early twenties to early fifties, are taking ballet in their
stride, at Divertimento’s downtown studios. They serve as a
testament that it is never too late to practice the fine techniques
of ballet, as a young Clara or an older Veronica Tennant.
3505, Durocher street (corner Milton)
Montréal, (Québec) H2X 2E7, Canada
Phone: (514) 285-2157
Theatre Ste. Catherine
Improv- No laughing matter
“I am not going to try to make this
scene funny or clever. I am going to be boring, but positive. Somehow,
by doing this, I will entertain you.” So says Eric Amber, the founder
of Theatre Ste. Catherine and the director of Sunday Night Improv, a
free, two-hour class where any and everyone can try their hand at entertaining
Amber explains that the class
is based on the teaching of Keith Johnstone, an improv legend, and head
of the International Theatre Sports Institute based in the U.K.
Immediately, all preconceived notions are cast aside as Amber tells
us that improv is not about being funny, but about telling stories.
On stage, a vibrant red-headed
woman plays it cool, circling her fellow actor, behaving naturally,
but entertaining us at the same time. She comes back every week “for
the challenge.” She explains that Johnstone’s improv has taught
her how to fail on stage and accept it. “There is nothing to be afraid
of after you have mastered failure. Improv is always evolving, and it
is more about the education of life than it is about jokes and gags.
It is about being yourself and letting your demons come out.”
And the demons do make an
appearance. Throughout the evening, different pairs of actors
are thrown on stage, given no other direction than to “just start
a scene.” The players are transported to the gym, the grocery store,
an apartment kitchen, a bus stop, just by their own imagination. Sure,
these places sound boring and mundane, but that is the point. The actors
must explain who they are, where they are, and if they know each other,
just by acting naturally. Surprisingly, stories develop rather
quickly. Without warning, an unassuming man receives a roar of laughter
from the audience. He was funny without even trying to be funny.
Johnstone believes that actors
should be cheered on just like wrestlers during a match. The most important
task on stage is to engage the audience and create relatable and realistic
story lines. Amber has been practicing this form of improv for the last
15 years. And although the theatre is a new venue in Montreal, it has
already rejoiced in the laughter from dozens of “unfunny” people.
Join Theatre Ste. Catherine’s
free Sunday Night Improv, and stay until 8 pm for a free show for students
by professional improvisers. (For those who do not attend the free class,
tickets are $5.) All proceeds go towards keeping the theatre’s
Théâtre Ste. Catherine 264 Ste.
Catherine Est. Berri-UQAM
(514) 284-3939 or send an email to: email@example.com