Artist Ryan Gothrup first pulled the sphere of molten glass from its fiery origin.
While it was still glowing red hot, Gothrup showed a group of Patrick Henry High School students how to shape and mold the primordial art into something recognizable – a glass, a bottle, a vase – as they oohed and ahhed, some recording the demonstration with their iPhones.
The art showcase – the first in a series dubbed “Growing with the Arts,” held last Thursday and Friday – was made possible by the Montpelier Center for Arts and Education, which recently received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts that emphasizes art outreach in the community.
As groups of students from Patrick Henry High and Liberty Middle schools filed in and out of the demonstration held outside near the school’s football field, Jen Stackpole, fine arts lead teacher specialist with Hanover Public Schools, said there had been a “tremendous positive response” to the program.
In addition to art students at Liberty and Patrick Henry, Stackpole said students in other disciplines were able to benefit from the glassblowing demonstration. These included chemistry students who examined the chemical properties of glass and a philosophy class that focused on aesthetic questions.
“They were able to take these ties and infuse the arts into their own discipline, which is really phenomenal,” she said.
Upcoming programs in western Hanover schools include a ceramics exhibition at South Anna and Beaverdam elementary schools in November and a woodblock and printing program at Liberty and Patrick Henry in February.
The school outreach comes part and parcel with the grant program, which focuses on community engagement with the arts.
“They decided that in order to engage the full community they would share some of the artists in residence with the county schools in the western corridor of Hanover,” Stackpole said.
Ann Comfort, executive director of Montpelier Center for Arts and Education, said the Center applied for the grant last spring. Onsite at Patrick Henry Friday morning, she was thrilled to see the program in action.
“We’re really just tickled to death that the grant was well-accepted by the National Endowment for the Arts and we’re going to get the community involved and it’s just a good partnership with the schools,” she said.
Comfort said the program will also help expose the greater Hanover community to new art forms.
“I think sometimes we get stuck on ‘Art is just visual, it’s only painting,’” she said.
Upcoming art demonstrations will feature raku, stoneware, woodblock and printing, metalsmithing and floral displays. In addition to several in-school exhibitions, artists will be teaching courses in those mediums at the Montpelier Center.
The program culminates May 3 with an “Artists in Action Day” at the Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., featuring all the various art forms as well as student-art pieces.
For more information about upcoming courses and demonstrations, contact the Center at (804) 883-7378 or by visiting www.montpeliercenter.org.