Winter art classes at Spring Street Gallery

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 6:00pm
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Spring Street Gallery Coordinator Paige Gaffett described artist Claire Marschak as “a fantastic painter, a really great teacher. She brings you step by step in the painting process. We are fortunate to have her on the island.”

On Sunday, Jan. 26, Marschak taught a tonal oil painting class at the Spring Street Gallery. Taken from her online portfolio: Marschak, a fine artist and designer, “is a Northeast regional oil painter of landscape, architecture, and still life subjects. As a plein air painter, she enjoys the challenge of being outside to create vibrant, spontaneous works.”

The Spring Street Gallery has been providing an Art Workshop Series for artists to teach in their mediums. During the winter, the gallery opens up its space for artists and classes, and hosts the On Island Collaborative, a new group that is promoting locally made arts and crafts, for its meetings.

“We offer winter art workshops as part of our gallery outreach. We started the classes about four years ago,” said Gaffett.

A table was set up in the Spring Street Gallery for Marschak’s class, where students gathered around to learn how to control their brushwork. Ten participants attended the event, and “people were pretty happy with themselves at the end, and felt accomplished with their pieces,” said Gaffett. The students had to create their own oil paintings from the example Marschak presented.

The Spring Street Gallery was once an abandoned horse barn, and was brought back to life by community members who wanted to contribute to the arts culture on Block Island. Staffed by artist members, “we have about 20 members and at least half have been members for ten years, who are familiar with the island environment,” said Gaffett. Marschak is a member of the gallery and has previously taught classes there.

“People are looking for an outlet on the island. I love having the classes be available, I am passionate about teaching and helping others in learning,” said Marschak.

When it comes to teaching her students about oil painting, Marschak has “a system in a way (tonal painting), using only two colors for the class. This gives more success and control in the painting. I want my students to come away with their paintings and have learned something about painting. I give the same instructions for all my students, and received ten amazing paintings, each one with different variations and interpretations,” she said. “Each student was at a different level, but rose to the top. Everyone was appreciative, and it was a fun group. I helped expose ten different people and it might open the door for them in further painting work.”

Gallery members are given an option to set up space for the summer season, and have to work a number of hours in order to exhibit their art.

“A lot of our classes are taught by gallery members, but not limited by any means. We are hoping in the future to expand on the number of teachers and classes. The classes started out as children’s classes, and then expanded on to various class opportunities and gallery members teaching. The costs of the classes go to benefit the teacher, and back to the gallery as well. Teachers provide materials and their time to the students. It’s more about having something available for the community,” said Gaffett.

Marschak has been a member of the gallery for two years. “I think it is a diverse group of artists and personalities. An artist collaborative is a difficult thing to run, but we have diverse backgrounds. We have a good group of people who contribute and share their art. A guiding team in the gallery, they all do an awesome job. There’s a sense of community to exhibit and make it accessible for everyone,” said Marschak.

Gaffett added, “Art can be very challenging to understand, and we want art to be attainable and accessible to everyone. We are more a co-operative rather than strictly a gallery. We want people to see things and ask things, to provide classes and opportunities. We want to be open for all – our classes are made for all to be happy and inclusive.”

As for future art classes, Gaffett responded that “none are scheduled so far, but we’re hoping to get Michael Chapman and John Warfel before the gallery opens for the season. The gallery officially opens Memorial Day weekend. We usually have the high school students do an art show before the weekend.”

From Memorial Day to Columbus Day, the gallery space is dedicated to art shows for guest artists, regular gallery members, and consignment work.

To sign up for classes, email Paige at heartspacebi@gmail.com. Classes are advertised on the Block Island Bulletin Board and through their social media pages.