Featured Artist: Tamara Gonda

ACA is thrilled to be featuring a new artist, Tamara Gonda, on our upcoming winter catalog. Tamara was featured in our Open Studios this past October, showcasing her work to the Arlington public.

"The Sky Could Be Blue" by Tamara Gonda, featured on the cover of ACA's upcoming winter catalog.

“The Sky Could Be Blue” by Tamara Gonda, featured on the cover of ACA’s upcoming winter catalog.

Tamara holds a BFA from Virgina Commonwealth University and an MFA from Cornell University. Beginning as an abstract artist, Tamara states “I feel that paintings are meant to be colors, line, form, shape and texture.” This comes out in many of her abstract works, which she defines as “color field and abstract expressionistic works.”

Though Tamara has thrived in the realm of abstract creation, she was introduced to the art of watercolor later in life and was shocked by her ability in this new medium. She states, “I have never painted anything close to realism before. I never pictured myself painting watercolors or realist painting. We all are a work in progress and I’m enjoying this new dimension.”

Tamara’s ability to go from abstract to realistic without having known her own undiscovered talent is truly inspiring for those who are hesitant to explore mediums that seem foreign to them. Take a look at her gallery of work here to get motivated to try something out of your own comfort zone!

"Morning Commute" by Tamara Gonda

“Morning Commute” by Tamara Gonda

Spring oil on panel

Spring oil on panel

Cupcakes are Coming: Arlington Native Makes a Sweet Return at Open Studios


“My favorite moments are watching people take their first bite of our cupcakes, and talking with them about our mission to generate funds for Arts education. The stories we hear from clients and event guests about the role the Arts have played in their lives, or their children’s lives, remind us daily of the importance and significance of our mission. ”

As ACA begins ramping up for Open Studios – one of our biggest events of the year – we have been lucky enough to have a new addition among our usual 80+ artists and fine crafters that will temporarily set up shop in our building.

Amy Chasan, Arlington native, turned herself into a woman of many trades; an artist, activist, and a businesswoman. With the start of her bakery, Sweet Generation, Amy has created a truly inspiring business model that we at ACA feel empowered to share with our community.

Sweet Generation is an online bakery that creates beautifully crafted treats for purchase in the New York City area, while also providing a customizing option for businesses and organizations. While it is easy to go through the gallery of the many delectable desserts that can be ordered, it is important to not overlook what makes Sweet Generation such an important company – a portion of every sale goes towards Arts Education.

Sweet Generation has had an incredible start thus far. Amy has catered events for celebrities like Wyclef Jean and Sheryl Sandberg, as well as galas for nonprofits like Citizen Schools at NYC’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. In addition, Sweet Generation has won the 2013 New Challenge for Social Innovation for their work.

Amy discussed her childhood growing up in Arlington and how it shaped her interest in Arts Education. She looked back on memories of attending Bright Start after school and the Arlington Boys & Girls Club for summer camp, going on to eventually get her first job there as a camp counselor and end up getting her Arts Teaching License. She goes on to explain, “Weekends doing art projects and baking with my mom truly cultivated my creativity and made me realize my love of the arts.”

This won’t be the first time Amy has utilized her talents to give back to ACA – this past year Amy generously created custom cupcakes for our Silver! ACA’s 25th Anniversary Gala Celebration.

We are thrilled to have Amy’s delicious assortment of cupcakes make another appearance at this year’s Open Studios, which are available for pre-order to help support ACA and can be picked up at the event. 15% of the proceeds will go towards Arts Education for kids and teens at ACA.

We hope to see you at the event and helping to support ACA through Sweet Generation. As it was well articulated by Amy herself, “… who doesn’t love a cupcake with a cause?!”

More information about Arlington Open Studios can be found HERE as well as a sneak peek of what will be seen at the event.

Friday Night Teen Arts @ ACA

ACA was bustling with creative activity on Friday nights thanks to the Creative Teen Program, offered to middle school and high school students. The class was run on a grant given to ACA by the Arlington Cultural Council, allowing the program to be run at a low cost with experienced teachers to lead the way – not to mention the incredibly talented students that came to share their artistry in our classrooms.

The structure of the program was different from most ACA classes, as there was no set curriculum. The teachers came equipped each week with a project in mind (and the materials to do so), but also came with an open mind, hoping that the students would take the initiative to come with ideas of what they wanted to create. The general principle behind the Creative Teen Program was to give students the space and the equipment to express themselves in a safe environment with facilitators there to aid in the art making and to give ideas when a student seemed stuck or unsure of what they should create. While this method could have ended in the students staring at blank pieces of paper, the program was lucky enough to have students that were determined and motivated enough to come with their creative juices flowing as soon as they stepped into the room.

The projects that were created throughout the program turned out to be incredible – some created self portraits, posters to create awareness about a cause, 3D sculptures, and graffiti-style artwork. As skills were taught to the students, they took their newfound way of art-making and used it in different ways as the weeks went on. For example, when the basics of using spray paint and creating stencils were introduced, students came in the next week with items from home (such as shoes and even furniture) that they wanted to implement their new skills on. The outcome was impressive; the students were able to use their knowledge to create projects that genuinely interested them, while still learning the many ways that you can express yourself through art.

Overall, the Creative Teen Program was a huge success, ending the session with notable and striking artwork to bring home and great skills to continue using in their future artwork.

See more photos of the Teens at work in ACA’s Friday Night Teen Arts Program.

Emily Kindschy is an intern from Lesley University.

Learning Graffiti — Without Destroying Property

Officer Smith of the Arlington Police showing students works of graffiti around Arlington.

Officer Smith of the Arlington Police made a visit to the Urban Arts & Graffiti class here at ACA – catching them in the act of graffiti making. As students were practicing their graffiti work in the ACA bathroom, Officer Smith stepped in just in time to give the kids a slight shock, where he told them how what they were partaking in was illegal. The twist in this story? The students were given permission by their teacher, Chris LeGare, to put their artwork on the bathroom walls.

Sample artwork made in ACA’s Urban Arts and Graffiti class

The class has been intently mastering the art of graffiti – rather than the quintessential “tagging” that is seen around, Chris has been teaching students about more artistic graffiti and how they can incorporate the style into their everyday artwork (without defacing property to do so).

After giving the kids a scare, Officer Smith escorted the class back into the room, where he explained the detrimental effects graffiti can have on a community. Students listened intently to Officer Smith as her discussed the way businesses are fined fifty dollars for each day that the graffiti is not removed from their building. He even went on to explain an extreme case, of a business that has yet to remove graffiti for 365 days. The students were shocked to hear that it is the victim that has to pay the price of the graffiti.

Officer Smith explained the likelihood of getting caught in the act of graffiti and the repercussions of their actions; many of the students already knew of their peers that had suffered these repercussions themselves.

Officer Smith viewing samples of stencil work made in class

The students were so invested in the conversation with Officer Smith that it took the entire class period, where it ended with Officer Smith showing them his binders of local graffiti in Arlington.

Meet Pam Shanley: Teacher & Facilities Manager

“Without art I would be a bit empty, without a core to make connections in my life,” says Pam Shanley, Facilities Manager at ACA. Pam has been a part of ACA since September of 1999 when she was hired as the Facilities Manager, a job that has changed and expanded drastically over the years. At the beginning of her time at ACA, Pam’s role included taking on tasks that other faculty members felt she could aid with. Now, Pam is the director of the Arlington Open Studios, manages ACA’s Gibbs Gallery and Tuft Street Gallery, as well as managing all theater events. Those who take part in ACA in any facet will more than likely run into Pam as she constantly runs throughout the building to make sure each class goes smoothly.

Red Landscape by Pam Shanley

While Pam generally works “behind the scenes,” perfecting each classroom, organizing supplies, and adhering to teacher’s requests for classes, her more artful side comes out as a teacher, where she is beloved by her students for her warm and loving teaching style. Pam teaches clay workshops and general art studios for children. “[ACA is] the perfect community for me – teaching, working with other artists,” she says.

Pam’s artistry is not limited to the confines of ACA – she has been immersed in art since her childhood. She has a strong belief in the power of art making, in which she explains, “It is the vehicle that helps to connect a part of me that cannot be explained in words – just raw emotions. To me, color, shape, and texture convey a feeling that brings the idea of life. I think for some people it is a safe way to express dark or scary things that have happened to them.” This idea is not limited to just adults – Pam believes art can be a tool for all ages.

Arlington Open Studios: A Success!

           The Arlington Center for the Arts was bustling with artists and art-lovers this weekend for their annual Open Studio. 80 artists came together to display their art to be sold to festival goers. A collection of new and old artists, the weekend encompassed all that ACA is about – the presence of art in the community.

            Connie Mooney, a new artist to Open Studio, discussed her stress leading up to the weekend. With her table and adjacent wall covered in her homemade jewelry around her, she stated, “I couldn’t stop making things, just in case.” It was clear that this new artist was someone to keep an eye on, as she explained that after registering for Open Studio, she was offered to teach a Mala Bead workshop at ACA.

            The Mala Bead workshop will entail the class to create mala necklaces and bracelets for themselves, or even to be given as gifts. Woven into the mala necklace and bracelet making will be the history of the Mala beads, as well as a short meditation practice. The workshop will show students how they can use Mala beads as a means to bring peace and serenity into one’s own life. The workshop will be $40 and will take place on Saturday, November 12th from 3 to 5pm for Teens ages 13 to 16 and Friday, November 18th from 7 to 9pm for adults. To register for this workshop, please call (781) 648-6220.

            Henry Olds was also in attendance for his third year at Open Studio, as well. His work, based heavily on the patterns one can see in everyday life, was the “face” for this year’s Open Studio. A piece that depicted a pattern of colorful blocks was used on each Open Studio flyer and generated positive feedback. Inspired by his young neighbor who had been working on a chalk pattern in her driveway, Olds took a photograph of her uncompleted work and manipulated it into the picture that would eventually be on display in the Gallery. “I see things and I want to emphasize the pattern,” he states.

            In the Gallery, festival goers were lucky enough to get a live demonstration thanks to Mike Stratakis, local potter and pizza shop owner. Onlookers discussed how mesmerizing it was to watch Stratakis form perfect clay pots, mugs, bowls and cups in such a short amount of time right before their eyes.

            The children onlookers were the most amazed. There was consistently a group of children huddled around the pottery wheel, watching in astonishment as they called out suggestions and Stratakis would create it all for them. “It’s like magic!” one girl exclaimed. “It is magic,” Stratakis responded, never taking his eyes off of his work.

            The Open Studio weekend was a great success, allowing the local artists and the community to continue to show their appreciation for the arts. If you would like to get involved with ACA, please go to www.acarts.org to see how!