JAC focuses on fall programming after successful summer series
The Jamestown Arts Center will be offering a wide variety of classes this fall. The first classes begin on Sept. 24 and cover the complete range of visual arts including sculpture, photography, drawing and painting. There is something for everyone, from kids 8 years old to adults. There is even a music class for babies.
“We are building off a very successful summer of programming,” said Lisa Utman Randall, executive director of the arts center. “We had almost 150 people, mostly kids and teens, sign up for summer classes. It really went extraordinarily well.”
The ceramics classes were a particularly big draw this summer. Children as well as adults took advantage of the JAC’s well-equipped ceramics studio.
On Sept. 28, Onne van der Wal, the accomplished Jamestown photographer and videographer, will participate in a special program that the arts center is doing in conjunction with Save the Bay.
“He’s going to be showing a video that he’s done,” said Kate Petrie, president and co-founder of the JAC. “There will also be five different artists, all showing photos of the bay.”
The fall classes range in length from eight to 10 weeks. Randall said that they are still trying to get a feel for what Jamestowners are interested in.
“We’re trying to find out what the community wants, and the community is trying to find out what we have to offer,” she said. “We employed 12 artists teaching during the summer, and we have 16 artists and teachers for the fall. Eight weeks is not too long of a commitment for people coming into a new arts center, and it gives us a time to see how we can work things out.”
Randall said that the master plan of the arts center is to become relevant in terms of creative industries. “That’s a growing sector of our economy,” she said. “As we get facilities, we’ll get more and more programs that are about design and engineering.”
The classes at the Jamestown Arts Center are open to everyone, and people from throughout South County have been attracted by the programming. Members of the JAC receive a 10 percent discount on the price of the class. There are scholarships available for people in need. The classes are roughly broken down into categories for children, teens and adults, although some of the adult programs are open to teens as young as 13.
Some of the classes approach the visual arts from a unique angle. “We have a class for 12-year-olds about dreaming, and how you incorporate dreams into your art work,” Randall said. “It really looks at how artists find inspiration.”
Peter Coulson, an award-winning photographer from Melbourne, Australia, will teach a class on fashion photography. “That’s going to be fantastic,” Petrie said.
Optimally the arts center would like to offer more comprehensive training in fashion, from design through photography. They would also like to include styling, makeup and photo editing.
“There will be sort of a cross pollination between the different disciplines,” Petrie said. “It will be very exciting.”
As the word has spread about the JAC, more and more artists are approaching Randall and Petrie about teaching. “Most of it was pretty organic as far as finding the teachers,” Randall said. “I’m getting constant emails from teachers now, definitely more than we can handle. It means the quality will be really high.”
The programming at the JAC is not limited to the visual arts however. The center has hosted several film programs, including one presented by the Rhode Island International Film Festival. The Manhattan Shorts Film Festival, a program of 10 short films that have been shown in 200 cities around the world, will be at the center on Thursday, Sept. 29.
Brown University, in cooperation with Trinity Rep, will present productions of Shakespeare’s “Richard II” on Oct. 3, and “Macbeth” on Nov. 7. A collaborative effort with Newport’s East Bay Met School is bringing young people with additional music and theater programs to the center.
Despite the difficult economic environment, the JAC fundraising effort has yielded positive results. “We’ve had very successful fundraising couple of years,” Petrie said. “It’s been fairly astounding. I think people here really see the need. The fact that there’s such a fount of talent on this island means that it’s a waste not to make the most of it. A lot of people here have seen that.”
Randall said that the center has received donations from $15 to $50,000, and that they have raised $800,000 up to date. Despite the center’s fundraising success, Randall has seen grant and foundation funding become more difficult to come by.
“In the two years that I’ve been with the arts center, it’s definitely getting tighter,” she said. “The expectation of the funders for financial paperwork has grown. The ante is been upped in terms of financial requirements.”
The JAC’s fall fundraising extravaganza will take place on Nov. 5. The theme for the event is “Bombay Bash.”
“All of these fundraisers have been put into our business plan,” Petrie said. “Our business plan has been honed so well now. I think we’ve really erred on the conservative side.”
The JAC expected to break even on their summer programming but wound up with a $10,000 profit. The emphasis is on sustainability as the art center moves from being a new arts organization to a well established one.
“We are truly a community arts center,” Randall said. “By that we mean that we are for everyone on the island.”
“We are unbelievably grateful to everyone in this community for everything that they’ve done,” Petrie added. “Without the contributions of so many people it just wouldn’t happen.”
The Jamestown Arts Center is located on 18 Valley St. For more information on the upcoming programs, visit jamestownartcenter.org or call Randall at 662-3839.