Welcome to the Creative Arts Center, hidden gem of East Dallas. You are visiting on the first Saturday of classes in the new year, so some of the most popular classes – and there are lots of popular classes – won’t start til later in the month. Some have waiting lists.
You wander around Building A wondering why this feels a little like elementary school (that’s because in the 1930s, this building was Bayles Elementary School). You follow the sound of laughter into a classroom.
“What is this class?” you ask.
“Beginning Painting from Photography,” says the scruffy leader. This must be the comedian, you think.
“Who are you?” you ask.
“Dave Kramer,” says scruffy Dave Kramer. “But you can call me The Master.”
The class returns to laughing. They never stopped painting. You want to stay and hang out but your lot is to wander. So you do.
You wander into an empty room with a bunch of weirdness in it – big buckets, cinder blocks, blue electrical boxes whose purpose you know not. Something will happen in there, but not today. This will be glass. (You learn later that Beginning Blown Glass was being held at that very moment offsite at Bowman Glass. That’s why you felt the vibes, because that class is so full it’s on a waiting list, and that room you were standing in will one week later host Fused Glass Sculpture & Moldmaking with Albert Scherbarth, and also Intro to Slumping & Fusing with this same Scherbarth. But you don’t know that yet). You move on.
You need people. This propels you to peek into Mosaics. The students are reverent in their concentration – serene, blissful, borderline transcendent. Your boss at your day job told you her friend attends this class on Friday nights and this friend’s family will not interfere with that class under any circumstances. It’s her me time.
You step inside a lively classroom with a nice teacher named Susan and six students making jewelry. They are talking about coins – that is the lively discussion. The stuff in this room is weird like in glass but the stuff in here is small and bewildering. Some of it reminds you of the props in the David Cronenberg flick Dead Ringers. You’re intrigued but it’s a nice day so you wander out of Building A.
You’re in Building B. Conor Muldoon is teaching Beginning Ceramics. His students are quiet and focused and making things large and ambitious. The room makes you want to don play clothes and make messes. You go back outside.
The back yard is pretty freaking big and full of mystifying objects. Objects is too prissy a word, actually, it’s stuff, great big stuff. There are two classes out here: Metal Sculpture and Stone Carving. “That is hardcore,” you think as you look over the collection of work, things realized, in progress, abandoned, on hold. You feel inadequate in the presence of metal sculptor/stone carver types. “I am quite wimpy,” you think, resolving to handle more tools, and mold more mud.
The Creative Arts Center has a bunch of other classes not mentioned here, including brand new Contemporary Fiber Arts and Printmaking departments, lecture-based classes on Art History and Professional Practices, and all forms of traditional and mediated art-making. The teachers are the real deal and so is the sense of community. Making art is fun.
This blog is called Don’t Look. Okay Look.
Betsy Lewis is a writer in Dallas who follows the sound of laughter.