Darien Arts Center expands adult offerings with new visual art classes
DARIEN — Joe Lamorte’s artistic talents have always served him well.
An oil painter, Lamorte’s passion for art led to a career working as an advertisement illustrator and art director for the luxury department store Lord & Taylor. Since retiring 16 years ago, he’s translated his skills into teaching art classes in town, most recently at the Darien Arts Center.
“I like encouraging people to bring out their creative side,” he said. “My goal is to encourage more than criticize.”
This fall and spring, Lamorte, an eight-year veteran of the DAC, will be teaching Watercolor and Acrylic Painting for Adults, one of several new adult art classes offered this year.
According to Beth Cherico, visual arts director at the DAC, the center has been adding more creative classes for adults to increase adult enrollment.
“When adults have the opportunity for creative expression, they appreciate art in a better way and generally feel more satisfied in other areas of their life,” she said. “What we’re looking to offer is creative expression.”
While many people may think of art classes as something for children in school, DAC has adults from all walks of life and skill level walking through the doors of its Renshaw Road building to exercise their talents. Adult students range from employees looking to add more creativity to their lives to retirees, perhaps former art students, getting back to their roots.
“Most of the people I’ve worked with have been left-brained, and they’re looking for a way to get away from that,” said Jill Sarver, referring to the theory some people are more analytical and methodical in their thinking, as opposed to the more artistic, right-brained part of the population.
Sarver, a local painter, has been teaching classes at the arts center for four years and also works as a curator and project manager at Cynthia Byrnes Contemporary Art, a digital gallery, art advisory and project management firm in Westport.
The Darien Arts Center is offering a variety of new fall classes and workshops for all ages in theater, dance, martial arts, visual arts and music. View all offerings, sign up for email newsletters and register at darienarts.org or call 203-655-8683. The DAC is at 2 Renshaw Road, behind Town Hall.
Sarver has taught painting and drawing to teens, but this fall she will be teaching a two-part portrait drawing class at the DAC. Her class will focus on the fundamentals of drawing three-dimensional portraits, including tackling lighting, portions and the planes of the face. Students in the first part of the course will be drawing from a live model. For the second part of the class, she hopes to take students to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City so they can draw from sculptures there.
“What I wanted to be able to do with the portrait class is bring my strengths without going to Rome,” said Sarver, who spends time each summer teaching art classes with the Rome Art Program in Italy.
Both Sarver and Lamorte focus on creating a comfortable and secure classroom environment, so students who are uncertain about their skills can feel confident in sharpening them.
“The older we get, the more self-conscious we get when we can’t do things,” Sarver said. “It’s about developing a judgment-free zone.”
Both artists structure their classes around brief lessons, followed by letting students work on their own pieces individually, with occasional instruction, if needed. The goal is to give students guidance to improve their technical skills, while giving them the space to be creative.
“Everyone views art differently and expresses themselves differently,” Lamorte said. “That’s the unique part. I value their own view and perspective. I truly appreciate their work. I see value in what they do.”
Lamorte, who has taught adults of all skill levels at the DAC and the Mather Community Center, allows the students in his classes to work off photos of whatever subject they want to paint. His lessons mostly focus on technical skills, like blending colors, how to hold the brush and painting perspective.
Lamorte mostly works in oil paintings, often depicting seascapes from around Darien, where he raised his children and still lives. However, he allows students to follow their own urges to see what work may come out of them.
“I think it’s part of their nature and something creative in them,” he said. “Something beautiful comes out.”