New Milford arts center opens doors to newcomers

NEW MILFORD — With stations set up for everything from watercolor to “gourd art,” the Village Center for the Arts kept its doors open Saturday afternoon for those who might want to see what the nonprofit has to offer.

Executive Director Sharon Kaufman said the open house is one of several the center hosts each year to let newcomers learn about its classes and programs.

The fine arts center offers events, afternoon classes and camps throughout the year in the hopes of creating an accessible place for people of all ages — “2 all the way to 102,” Kaufman said — to enjoy making art.

“We’re about the community,” Kaufman said. “This place becomes family.”

On Saturday, the center’s downstairs pottery studio was available to those who wanted to learn how to sculpt with Kaufman or other volunteers. Upstairs, visitors could try drawing, charcoal, acrylic painting, watercolor or cartooning with the help of artist demonstrations.

Kaufman and other staff were on hand to talk about the center’s other initiatives, such as the “unexpected artist” program, which allows local teachers to use the center and its supplies for school projects.

The idea is to encourage the use of at-home art projects to teach all school subjects, Kaufman said, but to do so in a way that doesn’t disadvantage children who might not have the money or help of adults at home.

“Money should never get in the way of a child having art in their lives,” Kaufman said.

She said the center aims to create a space for children to socialize and help one another while they learn.

This was the case for some of the volunteers Saturday, who started as students or campers with the Village Center for the Arts.

Collin Rozelle, a seventh-grader, said when he first started taking pottery two years ago, he was “anti-social” and afraid of coming out of his shell. Now, Collin is an intern with the center’s Intensive Internship Program and has grown the confidence to help teach the classes.

“Being able to give students the opportunity to make something and potentially make a life for themselves, that’s a great feeling,” Rozelle said.

Another volunteer, high school junior Kitty Frazine, said she signed up for the center’s summer camp at a time when she was dealing with personal problems at home.

Frazine said Kaufman helped talk through her family troubles while teaching her different kinds of art.

“She took me under her wing,” Frazine said. “It’s been like my family, and I found some things I didn’t even know (I liked).”

Kaufman said all the center’s instructors are told not to do the work for the students, but help them create their own art. The final pieces are shown in student art shows throughout the year.

“We don’t treat children like babies,” Kaufman said. “Children are artists that just happen to be kids.”