Ten years ago, Sally Hammerman's friends convinced her to take a pattern-making class at the Arts League, a small school two blocks from the University that offers courses in everything from pottery and jazz dance to tarot-card reading. The hobby soon became an occupation for Hammerman, who now works as a fashion designer and comes back to the school to teach her craft. But many who take her class at the Arts League do not intend to make a career out of dressmaking, she said. Most are just interested in making their own clothes. "Some clothes in stores cost thousands of dollars," she said. "If you make them yourself, you get exactly what you want and what fits you." For some of the 450 to 500 students who take classes there each term, the ceramics workshops, dance studios and darkrooms of the Arts League provide an outlet for hidden creative urges. For others, they are a springboard for a leap into a new career. Like the dresses that students make in Hammerman's classes, the building at 4226 Spruce Street that clothes the Arts League fits it well. Except for the signs in the windows, the Arts League looks just like the other old houses in the tree-lined block of Spruce Street. But inside, the wooden floors creak, and even the bathrooms look antique. Each stairway is narrower than the last, but the rooms on the fourth floor are as large as those on the second. The building is unique, very much like the school that occupies it. Gifts for Your Friends First-year University Medical School student Cindy Weinbaum, who takes pottery classes on Tuesday nights, is one of those students who uses the Arts League classes as a creative outlet. "It was very different from medical school," she said. "What I really like best is the opportunity to be creative." Weinbaum said that in addition to attending her course, she goes to the school on her own three times a week. She said that the course fee, about $100, includes paints, glazes, studio hours and 25 pounds of clay. "The great thing about pottery is that you end up with gifts for all your friends," Weinbaum said. Many of the Arts League teachers are professional artists who teach at the school in addition to their regular work in studios and darkrooms. Instructor Jennifer Hook, who got her graduate degree in painting from the University in 1989, said that she first became involved with the school during a fund-raising activity. Hook, an illustrator for the University Museum, said she helped a friend who worked in the ceramics department make commemorative mugs to raise money so that the Arts League would not have to sell its building. She said she decided soon after to teach a course at the school. "I wasn't thinking about teaching, I was just having some fun," she said of her original involvement with the Arts League. The school's teachers said they enjoy their classes immensely. Fran Scott, a full-time studio artist who started teaching pottery classes 20 years ago, said that the Arts League was "part of [her] neighborhood." Medical School student Weinbaum, who is one of Scott's students, described her teacher as "this hysterical woman who loves anything anybody makes." Commercial photographer John Mahoney manages the Arts League darkroom and teaches photography classes at the school. "Once people have the basic equipment, which is a camera, they can get started," he said. And University physics graduate student Kelly Ray, who serves on the Arts League's education board, shares his love of dance with students in his two swing dancing classes. Ray said he became involved with the school several years ago when he convinced a female friend who did not know how to dance to sign up for a class in ballroom dancing, which he took with her. When the class' teacher discovered that Ray "knew as much if not more than she did," she suggested that he teach a class. And when she left a year later, the school asked Ray to join the staff. Ray has taught courses in dancing to disco and rock music, and currently teaches ballroom and swing dancing, in which he said there is a "revival of interest." Ray helped organize the upcoming May Fair at Clark Park and an upcoming church auction, which will be held April 28. 'Publicity Saved It' The Arts League's status has not always been as stable as the old building in which it is housed. In January, the Arts League had to push its fundraising efforts beyond the usual pottery sales and donation solicitation, raising $20,000 in two months. According to Arts League President Tom Hutchinson, the school "came close to closing down, but the publicity saved it." Students and instructors said they believe that the Arts League is well worth the money that supports it, because it is a valuable asset to the community. "There is very much a need to accumulate and have available the various resources." Hammerman said, adding that people who have an interest in the arts "need to be in contact with each other." And dance instructor Ray said that the Arts League "provides a nice place for people in the community to get together and do things right in the community." Past Life Workshop In addition to the traditional creative arts, the Arts League will also sponsor several upcoming workshops. Among them are a "past life workshop" on April 22 in which students will "get the opportunity to explore three past lifetimes through the process of group regression" and examine "past hurts that block you from living to your full potential." A May 20 "crystals and colors" workshop will help students "create a mandala based on the crystals and colors which best attract and represent you."Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.