Sometimes people think they have to be an artist to take an art class,” says Shannon Stipple-Lean, the head of arts classes at the Schack Art Center in Everett. “There is an intimidation factor, but just sign up, just try. You will surprise yourself.”
It makes sense that prospective students might be intimidated, what with the exhibition of very professional artist Chuck Close currently hanging in the same building where curious newcomers, hobbyists, and working artists alike come to discover and develop their talents. But even in the Monroe-born artist’s works of portraiture here—from his first master print as a professional artist to his much more recent watercolor digital prints—is evidence that artwork is chiefly about the work. In putting together the show, curator Terrie Sultan worked with Close to choose works that reflect the artist’s process. As a result, guests at the center can see how a professional artist like Close became the artist he is.
This idea of work and process permeates Schack, from the center’s hot shop, where guests can watch glass-blowing artists hone a craft that can always be improved upon, to its Free Friday Open Art Studio, where local artists can set up shop and put in the time needed to improve their craft. And it extends to the center’s classes and camps—for drawing, painting, silversmithing, and more—where beginners put in the first hours of what could be a new hobby or even career.
“We are big proponents of hours making talent,” says Maren Oates, the center’s head of communications and marketing. “You aren’t born with it; you create it yourself.”
Since opening in 2011, the Schack has invited people of all ages into its four production studios, where dozens of instructors—some full-time teachers, others artists taking time to help others—lend their guiding expertise. Along the way students develop new skills, make friends, and maybe create a gift for a loved one. Perhaps without realizing it, those students are also helping to realize the center’s mission of “promoting and celebrating the arts for the enhancement of community life.” Schack has been so successful in its mission that in 2014 it received the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Arts Organization in the state of Washington.
“Pretty much, if you want to make something you can come find it here,” says Oates. And if you like it, she adds, you can keep working on it. Stipple-Lean concurs, pointing to the center’s silversmithing program, which in nine weeks teaches students to, among other things, make jewelry.
“There have been a number of students with no silversmithing experience, and they go on to take the advanced class sometimes,” she says. “They can take the advanced class as many times as they want, and they can work independently with the teacher on different projects. I have about a half-dozen of those people who are continuing to take the advanced classes.”
And now, with the center’s new lapidary studio, those students can pop in next door and take their jewelry-making to the next level, learning how to shape a slab of stone so that it can be added to their jewelry.
It doesn’t stop there. One of Schack’s two galleries is devoted to emergent artists. There, hardworking students can display their work and maybe feel a bit closer to Chuck Close. For a select few young artists, the center offers a scholastic art award. And from there?
“They’ll go on and get scholarships to art colleges,” Oates says. “We’ve seen them start very small and go all the way up.” Find Schack Art Center classes at Connect2Classes.com.