A Community of Shared Experience

 

The Vega Arts Workshop Series, inspired by the legacy of Arturo Vega, is an adult art education makerspace where people with varied backgrounds and experiences with art can feel comfortable expressing their creativity and learning new skills.

Each workshop starts with a seated circle and short introductions. This seemingly small gesture establishes community and shared experience. Looking at each other—connecting and knowing each other’s names—builds trust and diffuses notions of having to perform or show up as anyone other than ourselves.

Artists seasoned in their diverse disciplines act as facilitators and coaches, sharing an aspect of their creative process and empowering participants to create from a place of imagination and intuition. The inaugural workshops began with Gail Thacker, Scooter LaForge, and Elizabeth Gregory-Gruen. Upcoming is Curt Hoppe’s The Hyperrealist Experience workshop on May 1st.

In collaboration with each artist, I develop threads of ideas and practices to shape the concept of the workshop. It’s important for me that artists are not inhibited in concocting the workshop—creating a window to extend their practice, as well as that of the participants, is the goal of this creative process.

Cost and accessibility are often an impediment to quality arts education, especially in New York. Howl! Happening creates opportunities for artists and provides free programs aimed at improving the quality of life for members of the community. The Vega Arts Workshop Series expands on this mission.

There are plans to expand to children and young adults in the future, but for now the focus on adults feels like the right entry point. After all, adults need spaces to have fun and be creative as well.

I joined the Howl! Happening team in October 2018 as the Director of Education to launch the workshops, and it’s been an incredible experience. It has been an honor to work with these artists to create a workshop aligned with their show at the gallery. Although Gail, Scooter, and Elizabeth work in different disciplines, there have been remarkable similarities in the themes behind their work—including imperfection, intuition, and letting go of expectations and prescribed outcomes. My own background as an art educator makes this especially refreshing, since it’s what I strive for in my own practice.

I build on 10 years of experience designing and implementing education programs. Creating inclusive spaces where people feel valued and supported is of great importance for me. The response from participants has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. What moves me is to feel people’s satisfaction with the shirts they made in Scooter’s workshop, or their exuberant transformation in the Polaroid portraits they created at Gail’s workshop. Everyone wants and deserves joy in their lives—particularly now—and the workshops are an interlude and opportunity to integrate and explore insight, creativity, and imagination in our everyday lives.

 

Katherine Cheairs, Education Director, Howl! Happening