A fine idea

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 8, 2006

By Katie Scarvey

Salisbury Post

Those who haven’t checked into the art offerings at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College might be surprised.

The community college’s programs have expanded in recent years, and the school is investigating the idea of developing an associate in fine arts (AFA) degree, says Jonathan Church, a full-time visual arts instructor at RCCC.

Church got his undergraduate degree at UNC-Charlotte in 1989 and his MFA at UNC-Greensboro in 1993. He started at RCCC as an adjunct instructor in 1996; in 2000 he became full-time.

“When I started here in 1996, I just taught art appreciation,” he says.

He quickly realized that students wanted more classes, so more offerings were added, including painting and design.

Now there are eight different courses offered, including Art Appreciation, Survey of American Art, Painting 1, Painting 2, Design 1, Drawing 1, Watercolor and Digital Photography — a new class this spring taught by Jenn Gardner.

Plus, for the past three years there has been an anchored studio, which has helped give the program stability.

The program, Church says, is wonderful compared to what it was in 1996. Often, art classes are filled to capacity and beyond and healthy enrollment in classes has justified the increased offerings.

Only half of the community colleges in North Carolina offer the AFA degree, says Jenn Gardner, an adjunct art instructor at RCCC.

Gardner says that strong high school art programs are part of what is driving the college’s growing program. She and Church are planning to visit area high schools in the spring to explain what the arts program at RCCC has to offer.

Both Church and Gardner like to let their students know that it’s possible to actually make a living with art.

“I think that art as a profession isn’t taught in school,” she says.

Church loves giving his students a different way of seeing.

“They come in with a narrow way of looking at the world,” he says, “and get a new way of observing the world.”

He lets them know that art is accessible and available to them, that everyone is creative before it’s conditioned out of them.

To support a degree program, the school would need to offer some art history classes, Church says.

Since 2000, the college has held a student art show, the last three of which have been juried exhibitions.

Currently, an invitational art show of works by RCCC students is being exhibited at the Rowan Arts Council in Spencer.

Church and Gardner encouraged interested students to apply, and 10 were selected for the exhibition.

Several of Frank Pena’s paintings in the show were inspired by drawings he did for biology class. “Limerick,” based on a sketch of a worm he did in biology class, won best in the show.

Pena, Gardner says, is extremely talented and have a professional art career if he chooses to go in that direction.

Also on display is Pena’s “Reindeer Simulation,” which came about because of a dream, he said. He woke up inspired and began painting.

The 24-year old Pena, who has no formal training in painting, is currently taking a survey of American art course and will take a digital photography class with Gardner this spring.

Barbara Benton, currently in Church’s design class, began taking classes at RCCC after she retired from the school system.

Benton has taken many art classes at RCCC, including design, drawing, painting 1 and 2, and art appreciation.

“I’ve always had an interest in art and wanted to pursue it,” she says. For now, the classes are just for fun, but she wouldn’t rule out getting a degree in design, she says.

Her whimsical “What’s for Dinner” features a vegetable still life on the bottom of the canvas; upside down at the top is a pan of eggs.

She didn’t really plan what appears to be a high-concept piece; she was simply trying to conserve canvas.

Wendy Bringle has been studying drawing with Church since August. Her “Water Wake,” of acrylic, oil and sand, was inspired by the concentric circles created by skipping stones.

Julie Jaramillo created a dramatic mask by putting cellophane over her face and then gluing tissue paper on her face as she looked into the mirror. The mask represents her, she says, “mysterious, quiet, but there.”

She’s currently taking art appreciation with Gardner, who points out that at RCCC, art appreciation includes hands-on art projects.

Joyce Cavanagh-Wood, who recently moved to North Carolina from Canada where she was a diplomat, has a painting called “Colorado River Delta” in the show, inspired by a picture she saw in National Geographic.

She had a grandmother and an aunt who painted in their golden years, she says, who served to inspire her foray into art at this stage in her life.

“I’m starting at zero, with everything to learn, she says.

Jesse Allen, 25, has “taken everything” at the college, he says, including drawing class (twice) design (twice) and oil painting. Allen has some graphite pencil figure drawings in the exhibit.

The public can see these works and others through Jan. 13 at the Rowan Arts Council Office, South Salisbury Avenue in Spencer. Hours are noon-4 p.m. Thursday-Friday and 10 a.m.-noon Saturday.

Other artists participating include Toni Beal, Sandra Cheek, Kristen Cummings and Candice Lalino.

In the spring, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College will host a student art show.

For information about RCCC’s art courses, call Jonathan Church at 704-637-0760, ex. 322.

Contact Katie Scarvey at 704-797-4270 or kscarvey@salisburypost.com.

See page 5A for more photographs.