Despite the chilly night air outside, the atmosphere of the Ybor Art Studio, located on the west edge of Centennial Park in Ybor, was warm and relaxed.
Laughter rose from the circle of art students molding clay from potter’s wheels, while a nearby group sitting at a large round table molded clay flowers. The walls are lined with tables and shelves filled with brushes, paint bottles and mounds of clay wrapped in wax paper. Pieces of original paintings, pottery and sculpture dot the spacious studio.
The Ybor Art Studio, owned and operated by the City of Tampa’s Department of Parks and Recreation, opened in 2004. It joins four other affordable city-run art studios in the Tampa area, with locations in Hyde Park, East Tampa, Egypt Lake and West Tampa.
The studio brings arts and crafts to the community at an affordable price. Classes cost $10 to $15 per week, with sessions running 2-9 weeks. The studio provides instruction in media such as pottery, painting, and metalsmithing.
The most popular classes are the pottery courses, taught by Trisha Bohannon. Classes teach students how to create bowls, pots, and other ceramics by hand and on a potter’s wheel. According to instructor Brent Thorlton, the classes are so popular that they’ve had to waitlist people seeking to enroll.
In order to attend the classes, students must own a Recreation Card, which can be obtained through Parks and Recreation. Recreation cards cost $15 for city residents and $115 for non-residents. Non-residents have the option of paying for one or more of the programs programming seasons; that is, a non-resident may pay $50 for a winter/spring session instead of the yearly fee.
Bohannon, Thorlton, and adjunct instructor Marc Hussey are the three main artists employed at the studio.
“There is about 20 years of teaching experience among the three of us.” said Hussey
Before he began teaching at the studio, Marc Hussey taught faux painting and mural painting at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Denver, Colorado. Here, He teaches metalsmithing and mixed media art. The metalsmithing classes include jewelry-making and small-scale sculpture using soft, non-ferris (non-iron) metals such as copper, iron, and gold. His mixed media classes meld various media such as painting, sculpture, and digital media. The classes utilize low-heat torches and acids, but he insists they are safe.
“Unless you are stupid, it is pretty safe.” said Hussey.
Beginning in January, Hussey will teach an Introduction to multimedia class that will cover digital photography, Photoshop® and screen-printing.
“People enroll because they want to be creative, and be around creative energy,” said Hussey “The studio has a shrine-like atmosphere without being holy.”
Brent Thorlton has thought at the studio since 2006. He received his Bachelors’ in painting from Eastern Illinois University and his Masters from the New York Academy of Art. He teaches 8 classes a week in oil and watercolor painting, pen and ink, and silverpoint, which is medium that uses a sterling silver stylus to scratch designs into paper. Every third Thursday of the month the class is taken to the Tampa Museum of Art to use a model in their drawings and paintings.
In order to inspire his beginning students, Thorlton said he has them write down 20 ideas they would like to explore and work through so that they have a starting point to jump from.
In addition to teaching art classes, the studio also participates in local arts and cultural events. On Dec.11 it will exhibit original art by teachers and pupils alike at The Art in the Park, an all-day event celebrating local artists and their crafts. Art in the Park will take place in Centennial park right next to the studio; it will also include live music and a fresh market.