The Katonah Art Center in Katonah, New York: Art School Review – Loren Chase didn’t meander into early adulthood wondering what she was going to do with her life. “I decided when I was 13 that I was going to open an art school,” she said. Today, she runs the Katonah Art Center at 131 Bedford Road with 30 teachers who serve almost 600 area students.
Out of college, she first digressed a bit by working for Syracuse University Mentor Jock MacRae in his New Jersey studio, but soon enough turned the tables on their working relationship in realizing her childhood dream. “I called Jock and he started teaching here and now he’s one of our main teachers,” she said.
Hierarchical arrangements aside, they occupy an equal footing in viewing art as an avenue to fill the emptiness of kids who are left out of the typical esteem building activities of their peers. “They’re not sports kids, they’re maybe not into academics so they kind of get lost in the shuffle,” she said.
Thirteen years in operation and ten at their current location, The Katonah Art Center gives kids (and adults) the a chance to fill up on the confidence and do it minus a trait that many art schools succumb to. “There’s a lot of ego,” she said of what can be out there in educational art.
KAC does its best to leave all that out and create an atmosphere in which art is something to be admired, not judged. Art isn’t meant to be an athletic competition, she said.
They give that to the galleried world and exhibit everyone’s work once a year at the Katonah Library. “We have a huge show every June, and everybody from our two year olds to our 90 year old students are in the art show,” she said.
Of course, classrooms are stratified by skill sets. “We have some classes that are geared to people who think they can’t draw,” she said, but exercises are employed to unravel the mindset, she added. In effect, the left brain is dulled and lights the right into interpreting information into form and shape rather than literal meaning they’re used to.
On the other hand, for the student who knows their right brain from their left, a roster of renowned instructors are in ample supply. No matter what level you are, there’s always enough experience and expertise to serve the student’s needs, she said.
No talking down, though, even when it comes to the youngest among them. “We start fine arts training at six,” she said. In turn, they absorb grownup concepts and proper terminology like little sponges, she adds.
Conversely, the center definitely does a solid as juniors and seniors decide to take learning out of town to the colleges of their choice. Every month, they choose a specific area of their work and end with a professional looking portfolio as application deadlines come due. “Almost without exception, we’ve gotten kids into some amazing schools,” she said.
Finally, the center’s curriculum covers all the obvious artistic outlets (portraits and pottery) as well as the less likely found opportunities (glass and brass working). “If it’s in the visual arts field, we do it,” she concluded.
Rich Monetti interview of Loren Chase