Lenore Lyons Brings Art and Enthusiasm to the Cotuit Center for the Arts

January 6, 2011

Lenore Lyons, arts education coordinator at the Cotuit Center for the Arts

“I feel I have landed where I belong, and where I can make a difference,” said Lenore Lyons, arts education coordinator for the Cotuit Center for the Arts. We met in the Art Barn at the center, which she has helped transform from a serviceable, but somewhat-the-worse-for-wear, drafty barn-like structure to a warm and inviting art studio, brimming with art supplies and tools of every imaginable kind.

She had a vision of an arts center that would match the rest of the center, with its high-quality theater and gallery space, but was told, when she arrived at the center in late August, there was no budget for improvements.

That didn’t stop her. She went to Steve Luciano of Coachlight Carpets in Centerville, who was happy to work with her to provide sturdy, industrial wood flooring to cover the once-cold concrete floors. That immediately perked up the place, and Lyons knew she could make the rest of the paint-up, clean-up, fix-up improvements herself.

Art supplies of every description are stored in card catalog files from the Centerville Library and in other storage cabinets donated by friends and organizations, and Lyons has arranged it all to make it easy to find and use.

Now that the studio is in order, Lyons has endless ideas for the space and for classes, activities, and events. “I’m kind of an idea person,” she said. “In fact, my friends call me an idea factory.”

Her aim is to keep the studio full of people–adults, children, and teens–making art, music, dance, and theater all day long. The center’s winter classes, which start Saturday, January 7, are a good start.

One of Lyons’ passions is journaling, and teaching others how to record their own lives “as a way of remembering and as a way of forgetting.” She encourages writing and illustrating journals as a way of releasing stress, and is quick to say that one does not need to know how to draw to create a beautiful, meaningful journal. And, for those who may be reluctant to share what they have written, she demonstrates ways of hiding or disguising one’s writing.

Her “Journal A Year” class starts Saturday, January 7, and runs for 3 consecutive Saturdays, from 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM. ($75, $60 for members, $10 materials fee)

Those who have already learned how to journal may take it up an artistic level in “Journal on Your Own” offered during the same time period, to have use of the studio space, tools, and supplies. ($15 per session, $10 for members)

Lyons is also teaching “Artist’s Way,” based on the book of the same name by Julia Cameron. Classes are every other Monday night for six sessions, but, by the time you read this, this class may be full.  On Thursday nights, she is teaching “Artists Along the Way,” based on Julia Cameron’s book, “Walking in the World.” This class continues the self-discovery process begun in “Artist’s Way.”

Rosalie McCarthy will teach Life Drawing on six Wednesday evenings from 7 to 9 PM, beginning January 11. Students will work from a live nude model, using a variety of media. Beginners through advanced students are welcome. ($135, $110 for members)

Christine Rathbun, who presented her monologue, “The Further Adventures of the Fat-Ass Cancer Bitch,” at the Cotuit Center for the Arts’ Black Box theater last summer, will teach “I thought I was the only one, women’s lives in context,” an eight-week series of classes in autobiographical storytelling for women of all ages and writing abilities. The class filled up quickly.

Music classes are offered too. Ballroom Dancing will be taught Sunday evenings from 5 to 6:30 PM, beginning January 22, for 6 weeks. (singles: $120, $90 for members; couples, $210, 150 for members)

The popular Ukulele Orchestra classes continue, taught by Steve Gregory, beginning January 14, for six weeks. Intro to the Ukulele is 9 to 10:30 AM, and Ukulele Orchestra 2 meets from 10:30 AM til noon. All ages are welcome, and singing along is encouraged, but not required. ($120, $90 for members)

Scotty West will teach a 12-week series on the language of music in Music Appreciation from the Inside Out: Structures in the Language of Music on Tuesday evenings from 7 to 9 PM.

For children, Lyons offers an innovative class called Altered Books, in which she shows children how to transform an otherwise unwanted book into a work of art, gluing some pages together, removing others, painting some, folding some, adding doors, windows, and pockets, and working with paints, stamps, collage, and a variety of other media. They will create a unique altered book while learning to think outside the box.

Lyons uses the word “pentimento” to describe part of the process of making altered books. The work refers to a time when people painted new pictures over old canvases or paintings they didn’t like. Sometimes the new paint would wear off, and a bit of the earlier painting would show through, perhaps a forest scene showing up on a woman’s cheek.

In the case of altered book, part of the original book might show through, as a pentimento. The possibilities are endless for both intentional and unplanned uses of this technique.

Lyons wants to tie art classes to events and activities at the center, and an example of this is her “Wild Things” mixed-media sculpture class for 8-to-12 year-olds. Students will visit the Wild Things exhibit at the center’s gallery, and then come back to the art studio to create their own wild things. Students will learn how to create sculpture of various materials and using different methods of holding the sculpture elements together. This class meets on Tuesdays from 4 to 6 PM, beginning January 10. ($120, $90 for members)

Children will learn to work with different challenges and restrictions. They may be given specific materials that they will be required to incorporate into their sculptures (for example, a long piece of foam tubing) and they will not be allowed to use others (for example, they might be restricted from using glue and have to figure out other means of fastening their sculpture together). They might be challenged to make a figure, an animal, a container, or a vehicle.

Lyons has found a variety of nontraditional art materials for this class for free, from Craig’s List and other sources.

Acting classes are offered on Wednesday for children 8 to 12 (5 to 6:30 PM) and for teens 13 and older (6:30 to 8 PM), beginning January 11, and running for eight weeks. ($120, $90 for members)

Coming up during school vacation week, Michele Colley, Patti Anderson, and Michelle Law will offer Music Theater Workshop for ages 6 to 12. Classes will run Monday through Friday, February 20 to 24, from 10:30 AM to 3 PM. In this popular workshop, kids will learn the basics of singing, dancing, acting, and the visual arts, culminating in a creative production for family and friends. (175)

Though she did not major in art in school, Lyons comes from a crafty family (“My family makes things”), and that has always been part of her life. She majored in theater education in college and worked with Looking Glass Theater for a while and toured her own one-woman puppet show in the Boston area, until she had children and moved to the Cape.

She worked in advocacy for children for a time and then went back to school to become a teacher. She turned to art education as a direct response to the September 11 terrorist attacks. At the same time, a good friend, an art teacher, died of breast cancer, and her oldest child went off to college. It was a time of uncertainty and change, and Lyons realized that life could end at any time. If she ever wanted to teach art, to have a more creative life, she knew she had to get started.

So, she got certified to teach art and began teaching out of her home studio and other places, including the Cape Cod Art Association.

“Art connects,” Lyons said. The art classes are more than simply teaching art, they are a way of bringing people together, encouraging conversations, allowing people to chat about all kinds of things.

“Life is stressful,” she said, “and art helps to relieve that stress, connects you to other people–and it is fun.”

Lyons has an abundance of ideas for future classes. In March, an Irish singer/songwriter will come to perform at the Cotuit Center for the Arts. She will teach a songwriting class and, in the arts center, a bodhran (Irish drum) class. There will be a portrait drawing class to go along with a portrait art exhibit.

She has created art workshops for  Stop Bullying programs. Art journals have proved to be excellent tools for encouraging self-awareness and acceptance of others, and she will continue the program at the Cotuit Center for the Arts.

She also enjoys creating family events. Her Family Holiday Workshops were successful in bringing the generations together in December, and she has more planned. The next one is Valentine Arts on February 11. Children and their parents or grandparents can come in and make art together. “They can spend two hours making one giant valentine, or they can make 25 valentines for their class,” she said.

“It is difficult sometimes for parents to get together materials for their children to do art. I want to make it easy for them by providing the space, the tools, and the materials.”

“You come and enjoy, and I’ll clean up,” she said. “My goal is to create fun experiences in the arts for people to enjoy together.

“I feel like the vision of the Cotuit Center for the Arts and my vision are the same. We want to create a community place for people of all ages to gather together, whether it is for music, for performance, or to have an opportunity to perform, or make music and art, to have an opportunity to share.

And if Lyons is not already offering a class that is of interest to you, let her know what you might be interested in making, what kind of class you’d enjoy taking, and it is likely that she will be able to come up with just the thing to meet your needs.

The Cotuit Center for the Arts may be reached at 508-548-0669. For a list of classes available now, click here.

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