What better people to learn about art from than the people who make art?
This is the theory behind a new program instituted at the Jersey City Theater Center for kids to learn about art, taking advantage of the gallery and artists who have spaces in the Newark Avenue location.
Gabriel Pacheco, a Jersey City-based artist who also runs the Distillery Gallery in Jersey City Heights, allows kids access to working artists and to study works on display at the gallery, providing students with a deeper and more practical approach to the study of art.
Although the program is winding down for the summer, it is expected to kick off again right after Labor Day.
“We teach the foundations of art, from drawing to mixed media,” Pacheco said.
Over the summer, he said, students learned about mosaics.
“What is interesting about this space is that it is also a gallery,” he said. “So we use the gallery as a stage for teaching.”
“We teach the foundations of art, from drawing to mixed media.” – Gabriel Pacheco
This is an expansion on the previous programming JCTC has put on since opening in late 2013.
“We’ve always planned to expand JCTC-KIDS with educational programs,” said Olga Levina, artistic director. “Gabriel Pacheco is a talented artist and certified arts teacher. He has long been dedicated to making the arts available to every child in Jersey City, regardless of background or income, which is a goal JCTC shares. We are very excited that Gabriel is bringing his expertise as an artist and teacher to our new JCTC-KIDS programming.”
JCTC-KIDS Workshops are held at the newly upgraded Merseles Studios, which features an art gallery, 11 resident artist studios, and a black box theater.
The idea behind the classes is to introduce kids to visual arts, encourage creativity, self-expression, and art appreciation. The mediums taught include acrylics, sketch, pastels, water-colors, mixed-medium, and found art. Students have the opportunity to interact with resident artists, tour their studios, and be part of a special gallery exhibition at Merseles Studios that will showcase the work students produce through the JCTC-Kids Workshop program.
“JCTC is committed to growing the arts as a positive influence in our community,” said Levina. “Not only do our workshop students improve their artistic skills, but children learn about the process of creativity by meeting and working with professional artists.”
For Pacheco, JCTC-Kids Workshop Visual Arts Class — held in a creative art environment with direct access to a gallery, studios, artists and their work — is a unique opportunity for the children of Hudson County to have an ongoing, one-of-a-kind educational experience.
“The art gallery is a learning tool,” said Pacheco.
In addition to the experience of a professional art gallery, during the classroom activities in the gallery the students produce a study of a gallery painting through a hands-on situation, where they learn technique and style. Pacheco also arranges with artists to sit-in on classes – especially the resident artists at Merseles Studios – and discuss art and creativity with the kids.
“At most galleries, the artists show their work but they’re only at the gallery during the opening,” he said. “At Merseles, the artists are working in their studios and they love talking to kids. When the kids can see the work and talk to the artist about the work in front of them, it is a very well-rounded educational experience.”
Learned to listen early
Born in Brooklyn, Pacheco said he studied art very early in life. He earned a master’s degree in art and arts education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a B.F.A. in Visual Arts from Purchase College, State University of New York.
He has taught in a number of other venues, including with RUSH Arts, Transfiguration School, St. Jude School, St. Joseph’s Yorkville, East Village Community School – P.S. 315, Charles Dorsey School, P.S. 67, Choir Academy of Harlem, Weeksville Heritage Center and Caribbean Cultural Center in New York.
Pacheco specializes in mixed medium painting and sculpture, and his worked has appeared in group shows at galleries and museums internationally.
“I grew up in a foster home,” he said. “I think that inspired me to want to become an artist.”
He recognized early that art wasn’t only something you found hanging on the walls in a museum, but often on the streets.
“I had the privilege of being around a number of artists, and I listened and learned the language of art,” he said. “This is part of the reason I want to teach. Those who have should also give.”
JCTC-KIDS Workshop Visual Arts Class is the first JCTC-KIDS Workshop. Workshops will be held Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Merseles Studios, 339 Newark Ave., until the end of 2015.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.