by Amanda Card
Since its inception in 1964, the Whitemarsh Arts Center has served as a backbone for Whitemarsh art through support of artists and programs and workshops for children and adults.
Nestled into the quaint atmosphere of a former farmhouse in Cedar Grove Park, the center aims to show local artists how to explore new mediums and further their experience with different canvases.
Renowned for its ceramics program, the center offers crafting sessions to teach new potters how to “throw on the wheel,” encourage experienced potters to try new styles of ceramics and suggest new combinations of color for glazing finishes.
Barbara Seidenberg of the Whitemarsh Arts Center acknowledged the individuality of the ceramics program.
“Right now, there’s about a four-to-one student to teacher ratio,” Seidenberg said. “The teacher can address whatever the needs of the students depending on their experience.”
Seidenberg explained that at the beginning of each class, instructors hold a demonstration to expose the class to a “different style of technique.”
Seidenberg noted, however, that “students don’t have to work on that skill for the class.”
“If they’re busy on another project, they can work on that instead,” she added.
Art is an individual pursuit, and the center supports channeling those pursuits during their programs. Wanting students’ projects to sooner reflect an artists’ vision as opposed to the teacher’s demonstration, the center celebrates artist creativity.
“We’re not rigid.” Seidenberg said. “We want artists to value their finished product as much as we do.”
Though advanced ceramics classes are geared for adults and students, sessions are available for pre-school-age children.
“There are morning and afternoon classes,” Seidenberg said, noting that the Center also holds programs after school for younger students as well.
In the children’s programs, the center tries not to inhibit the discovery of different mediums.
“We offer broader programs for younger students, and as they get older they start to build their own preference,” Seidenberg said.
The center’s Young Artists Program is a five-week session covering fundamentals of painting, drawing, printmaking, clay, and paper collage. There might be an overlap of mediums if the demonstration calls for it.
The center also offers other programs, including an oil painting class taught by Wyndmoor resident Maura Matthews.
While the completion of a full session showcases artists’ newly acquired skills, the center recognizes that not every artist has the time to commit to a five-week session.
“There are one and done workshops too,” Seidenberg said. “Our next one is a painting and collage workshop … people can just try something different without the time and financial commitment.”
A staple in the community, the Whitemarsh Center for the Arts welcomes volunteers to help with administrative and teaching tasks. Though not exclusive to the local school district, Plymouth Whitemarsh High School National Honor Society students are some of the consistently returning volunteers to the center. The Center also recently donated 20 bowls to Chestnut Hill College’s Annual Empty Bowl event.
The instructors also seem to return consistently.
“We currently have two students who attended the center’s programs as children,” said Seidenberg, who is proud to see her former students teaching future artists.
“The center has a special place in their hearts” she added.
Their passion for the arts is shared with the Township as well.
“Kudos to Whitemarsh Township,” Seidenberg said, commending its support of the center. “They’ve given us this space since our inception.”
The township’s appreciation for arts can also be seen at Koontz Park, home to a knee-high mural that was co-produced by the township and the Center for the Arts.
“It’s a very colorful display,” Seidenberg said.” We’re very interested in bringing our art outside our four walls.”
Every other month, work is displayed in a glass case at the Township Building. Also, the Plymouth Meeting Whole Foods currently is displaying a multi-sectioned chalk-paint mural that was created by Maura Matthews and her oil painting class.
“We would welcome shows to be shown somewhere else,” Seidenberg said, explaining that the Center’s small space, though warm and welcoming, doesn’t have room to host workshops and a gallery.
Nevertheless, the Whitemarsh Center for the Arts continues to serve as a learning environment for artists and community members alike.
“We’ll be holding a team-building activity for a local company later this week,” Seidenberg said.
Clearly, art has made its way into the growth of Whitemarsh residents’ creative experiences. With the unmatched support of the township, Whitemarsh Center for the Arts inspires locals to keep the arts alive.
For enrollment opportunities in the center’s various sessions and workshops, visit whitemarsharts.org or call 610-825-0917. The Center will offer a $10 discount from session packages to anyone who mentions “Fall for the Arts.”