Discovering The School of Art and Photography

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Bringing life’s passions to light

By Rigel Herman The Pineapple Staff Writer Recent rain aside, the forecast for Delray Beach is generally idyllic, sunshine and blue skies day in and day out. While this weather attracts it’s fair share of tourists and snowbirds, it also caters to a creative and artistically inclined group of folks. With a collection of locals as eclectic as many major cities, Delray is known throughout South Florida and nationally, as a cultural hub, facilitating the artistic endeavors of those advanced in their disciplines and those who wish to learn more about their expressive natures.

Old School Square Cultural Arts Center is a testament to the creative and culture-seeking population of Delray Beach. The award-winning, historic site located on Atlantic and Swinton Avenues, encompasses the Cornell Museum of Art and American Culture, Crest Theatre, The Entertainment Pavilion and The School of Art and Photography. Founded in 1986, the beautiful and pristine buildings and grounds of Old School Square, offer a wide selection of visual and performing arts. While many locals attended the Old School Beer Fest back in April, or Shakespeare in the Pavilion’s performance, Much Ado About Nothing in May, one of the most integral facets of Old School Square is its School of Art and Photography. The “campus,” located on the 2nd floor of the Crest Theatre building, features quiet studios and classrooms, filled with light and windows and an abundance of creative energy. With a variety of classes offered, adults and children can learn a new craft or explore an existing artistic itch. The teachers at the school are a group of talented, interesting and professional people with a passion for educating and stimulating the minds of their students.

One such educator, Sid Delmar Leach, who teaches Beginning and Intermediate Drawing to adults, believes strongly that “talent really is just learning to do something well.” Because he also believes that you have to begin with drawing before you can paint, Delmar Leach teaches pencil drawing and includes perspective drawing in its simplest form. Drawing being the foundation to evolving artistic talent, Delmar Leach teaches his students to draw objects found within the classroom, using shading and shadowing. A graduate of both B.Y.U. and the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Fountainbleau, France, Delmar Leach has spent several years of his life traveling, painting and drawing while abroad. Now an “on and off” Delray Beach local, he’s taught at the School of Art and Photography for about 4 years. He lists among his professions, interior design, architectural design and handbag design and craftsmanship. His own artwork is extremely detailed and his subjects are often cottages and homes in France. He is a firm believer that people, all people, should draw and paint while they travel, an ideal that translates well when teaching in Delray Beach. “I think everybody should learn to do what I do. I didn’t learn until I learned,” he says. Beth Mears, a student at The School of Art and Photography, has been taking painting classes for three terms, and she’s already signed up for her fourth. A stay at home grandmother, Mears moved to Boynton Beach about a year and a half ago. As a way to meet people and become involved in a community, she began volunteering at Old School Square. Soon after she became a student of Carla Golembe, an award winning acrylic painter and illustrator. Mears says of Golembe’s classes, “It’s a safe place to do your thing.”

Mears began taking classes because she was a self-proclaimed “crafty person” interested in learning to paint. Once she got comfortable in Golembe’s class, she began to find her own style, which she calls, “swirly”. When Mears asked her husband if he minded her continuing to take classes, he was more than encouraging; he had noticed the positive effect it was having on her. “It’s very affirming. In life there are mistakes and it’s okay. Carla is very encouraging; there are no mistakes. It’s empowering and the fact is, we become like a little family,” she says. “My husband even lets me hang my paintings in the house.”

On the photography side of the school, Jack Wild is the premier professor and mentor. He teaches 7 or 8 classes a term during Season and 5 classes during the Spring and Summer. Wild taught at The Boca Museum School of Art for over 7 years and has been at Old School Square for over 3. While he is reluctant to discuss his commercial photography career that spanned over 40 years, he is enthusiastic to speak of his students. His pride is unmistakable as he shares stories of three female students who received full scholarships to various art schools for photography after taking lessons with him. Another major coup and testament to his gift as a teacher is the recent announcement of those selected to participate in the 61st Annual All Florida Juried Competition and Exhibition at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. This highly competitive professional exhibition showcases the best and most prominent Florida artists as well as those formerly unknown and emerging talents. Of those chosen from Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale, 100% are currently or have been Wild’s photography students. More than half chosen from Boca Raton and Boynton Beach are also his students. The competition includes all disciplines of art, so this is quite an achievement to say the least.

Wild refers to photography as “The Art of Seeing,” and gives his students weekly assignments that will always be followed with a high level of classroom discussion. “What I really enjoy is when their work changes, their eye changes,” says Wild of his students. “I can motivate and guide someone, but they have to turn the light bulb on.” The other photography teachers at Old School Square are former students of Wild’s and have similar philosophies and methods; teaching through tremendous conversation and avoiding criticism, Wild says he teaches people to “use their camera as an artist uses their brush,” and to “develop their senses to become expressive and creative with what they see.” The School of Art and Photography at Old School Square is remarkable in that the teachers are truly passionate about teaching; it is a choice for each of them and one that they take seriously. Their goals sincerely seem to make artists out of everyone, with an emphasis on the importance of learning properly and being motivated through a safe, comfortable and guided environment. While not everyone may be inclined to become a serious exhibitor or take several classes, there is no question that taking a class at Old School Square is a worthwhile endeavor. If for no other reason than the opportunity to spend a few lovely days with interesting and artistic people, enjoying yet another facet of Delray Beach that makes it such a charming place to be. Class Schedules and Information are available at www.oldschool.org or by calling 561-243-7922, ext. 317.