A challenge pursued, despite the way it may feel from time to time, is typically worth it. I may be a hypocrite for saying this, since I know for a fact that sometimes when I’m presented with a challenge, I feel the complete opposite. After years of learning that pushing through a challenge typically ends up resulting in something wonderful, however, I’ve had to change my tune.
Art classes are a totally different experience, though. More often than not in our day-to-day lives, we’re presented with challenges which don’t necessarily lead to a product we’re proud to look at and recall the experience that it took to make it. In the story that follows, I share the experience of my inexperienced self taking a woodworking class at Meta4 Gallery in Port Perry. Instead, if you’d like a quick look at where you can go for art classes in the region, you can kindly head down to the bottom of this article.
A Tale of Challenge, Community & Reward
Earlier this year when I was travelling around Durham Region, I was invited to take an art class at Meta4 gallery in Port Perry with my partner, Chris. I was initially very excited about it, since I enjoy the process of letting my creative juices flow and trying something new. I’d envisioned the classic “art class” sort of experience, involving paintbrushes or even pottery wheels, and it had me excited.
Then I learned that the class I was to take was actually a woodworking class. Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first, mostly because I’d never had any experience doing woodworking at all. For those of you who are confident and capable trying something you’ve never done, I applaud you, since these are the experiences that I don’t know how I feel about, since I’m nervous I’m not going to be very good (I’m working on it).
Alas, the day came when I was to try my hand at woodworking! I was nervous, excited and unsure of what to expect. Along with Chris, we were welcomed into the cozy back room of Meta4 Gallery. Since I don’t often take art classes, I wasn’t really sure what to expect in terms of the setup. I was surprised to instantly feel so at home in their back workshop space, since they thoughtfully provide tea, coffee, sweets and snacks for students taking their classes.
With my early-morning-self satiated by a sweet treat and a cup of joe, I sat down at my spot at the table for our class. We were introduced to our talented instructor, Johnathan Wager, who had brought several of his own creations in for us to see.
I was instantly impressed with Johnathan’s confidence and skill. After a quick demonstration of a few “simple” motions of the knife in widdling, it was clear that all the spoons, bowls, spatulas, forks and other items he had brought had taken hours upon hours of dedicated work. I could have watched the ease with which he whittled a few comprehensive spirals of wood off of his solid wooden block for ages, but this was not what I’d signed up for. It was my turn.
I looked down, intimidated, at the solid wood block in front of me. The task for the class was to somehow transform this chunk of wood into a large serving spoon. That little voice in my head seemed to whisper softly in my ear “It can’t be done.”
The whittling took some time to understand. There were so many small factors to learn: exactly how to hold the spoon, how to hold the carving knife, and how to get the right pressure down on it to carve the spoon. Johnathan was an excellent teacher though, and I surprisingly found myself able to figure out how the motions could work best for me on my own.
As I continued to whittle my wooden spoon into shape, I quickly realized, though, that despite the common goal all the students shared to walk out with a whittled spoon, this shared experience was in many ways more about experiencing being pushed outside of our comfort zone and learning about each other than anything else.
As we all worked away, we asked questions about one another’s history and experiences. Johnathan told us about the community he grew up in and shared stories about the various initiatives they have for young people learning about and appreciating nature. A fellow classmate of ours shared that he’d just turned 60, and he wasn’t quite sure how he felt about it. His partner had given him this class as a gift since he’d always wanted to try woodworking, but had never really taken the time to do much of it.
We talked about the types of music we liked, the places we’d lived and worked, where we’d travelled, where we stood on various world or cultural issues. In the span of about four hours whittling wood together, we created a little community and reminded ourselves that there really isn’t much separating strangers from one another.
Four hours later and with our personal serving spoons in hand, the experience of taking a class at Meta4 Gallery was a fond one. Trying something new and intimidating and then creating something through tireless work truly captures the human spirit; it is the embodiment of the reward of hard work.
Art Classes in York, Durham and Headwaters
Regardless of how you approach taking a class or your reasons for being interested in enrolling in one, these collective creative experiences are good for the soul. If you’re looking for the opportunity to try something new, work on a skill you’ve been keen to improve upon or simply meet and share a fun experience with a group of people, I encourage you to check out one of the art collectives listed below to see which types of classes might work for you:
Port Perry, ON
Located in the heart of Port Perry, Meta4 Gallery is an art gallery and store streetside, with a workshop for classes in the back. The shop itself is home to a rotating selection of carefully selected artwork, sculpture, jewellery, pottery and beyond from both local artists and artists from across Ontario.
In terms of the classes and workshops found at Meta4, there is a wide variety of classes taught by experienced artists on site. Their monthly schedule is frequently being added to online, and they host a range of classes throughout the weekdays and weekends. They host workshops in stained glass, acrylic painting, pottery and more. They also offer Kids’ Art Classes throughout the year, with art camp for kids during the summer, so there are options for the whole family to enjoy.
Alton Mill Arts Centre
Located in the historic original mill of the same name, Alton Mill Arts Centre is an impressive and inspiring building. The main floor of the building is home to displays of many artisans’ work from near and far, and it also serves as a gallery space along with a cafe for the public to enjoy. The upper floors are rented out to serve as local artists’ studio spaces. The public may also freely walk around upstairs to see the artwork demonstrated and learn a little about each artists’ craft. The rule of thumb is that if the artist is in, feel free to come in, but if they aren’t in their space, it isn’t respectful to walk in without notice.
There are many classes and workshops which run year-round at Alton Mills Arts Centre, offered by a multitude of experienced artisans who are a part of the creative community. Classes range from mandala making and drawing, gel image transfer, jewellery making and scratchboard art. The location of classes depends on the artist running the workshop and the size of the class.
Winged Canvas Art Hub
Located just north of Highway 7 near McCowan Road, Winged Canvas Art Hub is a location built and created by artists, with studio spaces, a gallery, kids’ camps and an offering of art services such as custom framing. Their mantra is to challenge traditional norms and concepts of the “starving artist” and gallery culture, and their goal is to expose more people to how artists’ ideas are intrinsic to our day-to-day lives and shape our world.
There are many creative offerings at Winged Canvas. They have an events page where they update the goings on at their hub, with classes offered on subjects from Palette Knife Painting to Animation Principles to Oil Landscape Art. They also offer classes and camps for kids as well (including on PA days), and they are even organizing and offering an art tour through Italy in the spring of 2020.
I hope this story and article has encouraged you to take a peek at what’s available in the region to test out in terms of art and classes. Regardless of your potential intimidation or hesitation, you should get out and do it! There’s so much to be learned, discovered and most importantly, shared.
Written by Bri Mitchell
Bri Mitchell is a freelance travel and lifestyle writer. She has travelled to over 50 countries and loves to learn a little more about the world (and herself) with each trip she takes. Bri currently lives in Toronto with her partner in life and travel, Christopher Mitchell (travelingmitch.com), and their Turkish street cat turned Prince of the Great White North, Kotu. You can follow her travels and meanderings around Ontario and beyond on Instagram @mstravelingmitch or her Facebook page.