Whatever your passion or talent, you need tools and space to hone your skills. A ballplayer needs equipment — ball, bat, glove, plus a diamond and fellow athletes. Similarly, an artist who works in oils needs a brush, canvas, paints and room to work — and maybe guidance and inspiration.
That’s what Gallery North’s new Community Art Center hopes to provide. Sunday’s opening reception for “Inside the Studio” is your chance to see art created by the instructors and their students — from novices to advanced — and tour the studio to see how it’s done.
“We have a collective vision,” says Judith Levy, director of Gallery North, who met for years with other artists, some from nearby Stony Brook University, to share ideas about an open-to-all art studio. While the ribbon-cutting for the center, a free-standing building next to the Setauket gallery, was in the fall, classes didn’t open until a certificate of occupancy was issued at the end of last year.
Following winter classes, attracting about 50 students, the center’s first spring semester is just beginning, with fees ranging from free to $250.
“We want to help people expand their horizons,” says Larissa Grass, Gallery North education coordinator. Among the workshop offerings are life drawing, plein-air and still-life painting, watercolors, portraiture, felting, batik, art journaling, egg decorating and more, depending on the season.
But what distinguishes Gallery North’s studio is its printmaking workshops.
“When we were in the planning stages,” Levy recalls, “I had this gnawing in the pit of my stomach. We have to have printmaking! Out of the blue, a benefactor donated a press, then a smaller one and a drying rack” for the prints. “It all fell into our laps.”
The gallery board raised about $500,000 for the art center. Lorena Salcedo-Watson, a visiting artist at SBU who worked for 14 years as master printmaker at West Islip-based United Limited Art Editions, conducts Gallery North’s print workshops. Among ULAE’s clients were Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist and Kiki Smith.
A TOXIC PAST
But printmaking, long associated with acid baths for creating relief images and toxins for cleanup, has been considered so hazardous that it is no longer taught in many college programs.
“The thought of falling in love with printmaking and not having a place to print is part of what inspired me to come here,” says Salcedo-Watson. As for the toxins, “that’s totally past,” she says. “We use aquatints and tactile innovations that make printmaking green” — techniques pioneered by Sag Harbor printmaker Dan Weldon and others.
At Gallery North, printmaking is taught in the same space with other classes — Espacia Maria’s “Watercolor Wednesdays,” Diane Barthel-Bouchier’s “Botanical Drawing,” Amal’s “Draw Your Self-Portrait” or Grass’ “Let’s Create Together.”
“Our printmaking is safer even than Magic Markers,” says Salcedo-Watson. “Kids like to take the caps off and sniff them. You can only take so much of that.”