Department of Art Alumni

 

From the Newtown Bee 2/9/2012

Newtown Arts Finds A Home In Edmond Town Hall

By Nancy K. Crevier

 

 

            
Ginger Hanrahan heads the group of five area artists who make up Newtown Arts, a new studio in the former Probate Court rooms of Edmond Town Hall that hopes to add to the area’s art class choices by offering periodic courses, workshops, and open studio events. —Carl Hebert Photography

Visual artist Ginger Hanrahan of Bethel realized one day last year that she wanted a space in which to develop her textile sculptures and paintings, without competing with her home life.

"I wanted to be somewhere near other artists, and somewhere public, with foot traffic," she said. Living just over the Newtown line, she realized that the answer might be right on Main Street in Newtown. She scouted out the recently vacated Edmond Town Hall, thinking, "What better place than City Hall?"

At the same time, she discovered through conversation with four fellow artists she had met while working on the MFA program at WestConn, that they were also seeking a place that would provide them with enough solitude to work, but with public contact, as well.

In June 2011, Ms Hanrahan and the four other artists moved into three rooms that previously housed the Probate Court at Edmond Town Hall. Ms Hanrahan, Betsy Davidson, Eileen Tavolacci, Kevin Dunn and Saba Quraishi-Fiala have found the arrangement allows for each of them to spend time working independently in the quiet, bright rooms, gives them a professional address, and provides them with a space to show their work to interested buyers.

"We all have our specialties," emphasized Ms Hanrahan, who teaches painting and drawing courses at Post University in Waterbury. Ms Davidson is a sculpture artist, Ms Tavolacci specializes in still life painting, Mr Dunn is a landscape artist, and Ms Quraishi-Fiala, from Newtown, is a textile sculpture artist.

Known collectively as Newtown Arts, the group also is looking to expand creativity and support the lifelong learning of the arts, said Ms Hanrahan, the self-proclaimed ringleader of the "band of fellows." Since settling into Edmond Town Hall, Newtown Arts has quietly begun to offer "a few highly thought-out courses," said Ms Hanrahan. The art classes are primarily for adults, but future plans include classes for children and families. To date, Newtown Arts has held a Painting I class and a Drawing class.

 

Hobos were a part of the 1930s landscape when Edmond Town Hall was built, says Ginger Hanrahan of Newtown Arts, and that is one reason the hobo artist is the new art group’s logo. “In order to give the artist population work during the Great Depression many were hired to make art for libraries, municipal centers, hospitals, and libraries,” she explains. Additionally, the logo conveys “the need for every artist to explore, wander and trip the light fantastic, even if in a purely symbolic manner.”

Beginning the week of February 25, said Ms Hanrahan, Mr Dunn will lead a six-week course entitled "The Art Box." Each week will focus on a different medium, including pastels and acrylics. Supplies are included in the $120 fee for the course.

 

All of the artists who make up Newtown Arts are trained, practicing artists with a variety of skills, Ms Hanrahan said, and are committed to providing quality classes.

"Nobody's pretending here," said Ms Hanrahan. "I am about teaching what I know: textile skills, painting, drawing, and collage," she said. "We are sharing our skills at very high levels, so hopefully, students can take what they learn and grow with it. All levels are welcome, from someone with absolutely no art background to the very skilled artist," she added.

The studio at Edmond Town Hall gives her a place to work on more projects outside of her home, Ms Quraishi-Fiala said, and she is excited about being in the old town hall, and the energy that she sees Newtown Arts bringing to the space.

"I like the idea of our town creating an arts buzz," said Ms Quraishi-Fiala, who plans to offer soft sculpture classes in upcoming months.

"Most of what I do is felted art, created from old sweaters that I get a thrift stores," she said, "and then I turn the felted wool into children's clothing, or sculptures." She has also made felted birdhouses for charity events, and felted accessories.

"I like the fact that found things can be turned into something new, and that if that object is left outside, it returns to the earth, it breaks down," Ms Quraishi-Fiala explained her art philosophy.

Bringing Newtown Arts to the centrally located former town hall building is a move that Ms Quraishi-Fiala sees as a way to create an arts hub of sorts in Newtown.

"I think Edmond Town Hall is a building that is well known, and that is currently under utilized," she said. "As [Newtown Arts] grows stronger and our classes get bigger, we will be more involved in Edmond Town Hall, I think. I can see juried art shows there. The space could allow for guest artists to come and show their works. It's a high profile building that lends itself to something fun like this," Ms Quraishi-Fiala said.

Newtown Arts has kept a low profile as it gets underway, said Ms Hanrahan, in order that the artists do not overwhelm themselves or the public. They currently hope to offer four courses a year.

"We are trying to add to the other art programs in the area, not take away from other programs," she said.

Newtown Arts hopes to host an open studio evening, with workshops presented by nationally known artists, and weekend workshops for families, as they feel their way through the first year.

"Long range, I envision maybe an artist residency program in Newtown, utilizing space up and down Main Street. It's a great location," said Ms Hanrahan, "and we want to offer more experiences and enrichment for the people of Newtown and their children. We're not in a hurry, though. We are still developing, and are open to suggestions."

So far, Newtown Arts is thrilled with the space at Edmond Town Hall. "There is visibility here," Ms Hanrahan pointed out, "with people coming and going for movies, events in the Alexandria Room, the gymnasium, and the dance classes. There is plenty of space here for our classes. If we get a lot of students, we can spread out. There is space to do open studios and potential for a gallery, as well as potential for fundraising for Edmond Town Hall."

Being on Main Street in Newtown, she said, gives the members of Newtown Arts a sense of permanency and an address with "panache."

People who wander into the side hallway of Edmond Town Hall are excited to find an artist at work, Ms Hanrahan said, and all of the artists welcome visitors, whenever "The Artist Is In" sign is posted on the door.

To find out details about The Art Box course, or upcoming classes, call 203-748-5849 and leave a message.

 

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