ART LESSON: Free classes seek to inspire budding artists at Johnson Center
Published 3:00 am Friday, January 22, 2016
Feng Ping Xiong is a graduate of the University of China School of Fine Arts, which is elite art school. She is a teacher and has taught art in her native China. Now, she is teaching an art class two days a week at the Johnson Center for the Arts in Troy. And, the classes are free.
“Feng walked into the Johnson Center in August to say that she wanted to volunteer,” said Vicki Pritchett, JCA executive director. “We were thrilled to have someone with her artistic talent volunteer.”
Pritchett said Feng Ping Xiong’s husband is a graduate student at Troy University working toward a master’s degree in computer science.
“Feng came with him to Troy, but because of the visa she has, she cannot work while she’s here,” Pritchett said. “So, Feng searched the Internet and found that there is an art museum in Troy. So, she walked over and volunteered.”
Pritchett quickly realized that the art center’s most recent volunteer would a valued asset to the JCA.
“For some time, I had wanted to offer art lessons at the Johnson Center and thought Feng might be interest in teaching a class,” Pritchett said. “When I mentioned teaching art to her, she liked the idea.”
Feng Ping Xiong is now teaching an art class from 10 a.m. until noon on Wednesdays and Thursdays in the upper level gallery of the Johnson Center.
Pritchett said the class is casual and anyone can join at any time.
On Thursday, a rainy day, there were three students in the class, Penelope Dawson, a recent retiree; Larry Aldridge, who works in security; and Gabriele Bezerra, a student from Brazil.
Aldridge has developed his own artistic style and was searching for someone to help him develop his talent when he learned about the free art class offered at the JCA.
Gabriele was simply looking for a way to spend time creatively while visiting in Troy.
Her sister is a student at Troy University and she and her parents came for a month-long visit.
“I like to draw and I’m having fun learning more about art,” Gabriele said.
And, for Penelope Dawson, the art class is a way to keep her wheels turning.
“Being retired, I want to keep my mind active and open,” Dawson said. “Art is a good way to do that. Art has opened my eyes to things that I have not noticed before. We are learning about perspective and I’m now aware of the placement of objects and depths and about shadows and lights. Art opens the world up to you.”
Pritchett said it is amazing that Troy, Alabama is beginning to be an international art center. “Here, at the art center, we have an international student from Brazil whose family has visited the center and whose sister is taking art lessons here at the center,” Pritchett said. “The art class is being taught by a teacher from China. And, the Johnson Center’s new exhibition coordinator has spent the last 12 years in Spain.”
Pritchett said the Johnson Center has an international appeal but continues to hold on to its roots.
The JCA hosts the biennial exhibition featuring Alabama artists and recently featured a wildlife exhibit and a wild art contest for kids.
“The goal of the Johnson Center’s ‘New Decade of Vision’ is for everyone to claim the Johnson Center as their own cultural arts center,” Pritchett said. “It’s thrilling to see people buying into the cultural arts and taking advantage of our programs. We invite everyone to visit the Johnson Center, view our outstanding exhibits and learn more about the many things the center has to offer.”