Dalal brings innovation, creativity to ACA

“They were so focused on their visions of a finished project that the room just exploded with creativity,” says Beth Dalal of one of her favorite moments teaching at ACA’s Arts Camp. Dalal, who has been teaching children’s and adults’ art classes at ACA for over a year now, firmly believes in the power of ACA’s mission – that is, “transforming lives and building community through the arts.” She continues: “Kids were everywhere working with fabric, from on top of tables to sprawled across the floor, to even in the hallway…It was awesome to see the transformations happen.”


                   Photo by Kristen Powell

Dalal, who admits that she had to travel a “long, twisted road” before realizing she wanted to teach art for a living (having studied subjects in college as diverse as psychology, pre-med, and museum education before landing on arts education), will bring her unconventional and uniquely creative artistic viewpoint to ACA this Fall. “I try to approach art as an exploration—something that we will learn together because I firmly believe that we are all still learning,” she says. “I also try to remember that not everyone is comfortable creating art. I draw on my own stumbling blocks in art (sixth grade, when my art just never looked how I thought it ‘should’) to help me communicate and understand where students might be getting stuck. These are not only ideas that guide my teaching, but that also guide my own artwork.”

Dalal will be offering an impressive six classes this impending semester, including children’s courses such as “The Mudroom (Homeschool Class),” “Young Artist’s Printmaking,” “Fiber, Fabric, and Yarn, Oh My!,” “Stories, Art and Me,” and “Holiday Workshop,” as well as a “Sgraffito Workshop” for adults. Each class offers new and exciting possibilities and the ability to create vibrant, dynamic artwork across a variety of mediums. In “The Mudroom,” children will create amazing clay artwork from around the world. Dalal’s “Fiber, Fabric, and Yarn,” will involve “sewing, altering fabric through dyes or bleach (safely!), and exploring ways of combining these skills in various ways.” In “Stories, Art and Me,” parents and children, ages 3 – 5, will read a book together and then make artwork based on that story. Meanwhile, “Holiday Workshop” promises to be the perfect seasonal arts class, which will allow students to make beautiful holiday ornaments to be given to family members and loved ones.


                     Photo by Kristen Powell

And for adults, Dalal’s “Sgraffito Workshop” will allow students to carve unique designs onto clay surfaces – a process that Dalal “fell in love with a few years ago while trying to find a way to connect [her] clay work with the doodles [she] always seemed to be drawing.”

The diversity and breadth of the material she is able to teach is just one reason Dalal values ACA as a community arts center. “Part of why I love working with ACA is that I get the chance to teach so many of my absolute favorite things,” she says. However, Dalal is quick to note that, at the end of the day, it all comes down to the members of ACA’s vibrant and creative arts community. “My favorite part of teaching at ACA is what a supportive community ACA has created,” she says. “From the staff to the students to the families, I always feel appreciated and valued as both an artist and an educator.”

And her love for the arts and those who partake in them is abundantly clear in every word. “In general, I like working with a variety of audiences…BUT, that being said, I’m a sucker for working with kids,” she notes. “The thing I love about working with kids is seeing the look on their faces when they are really focused and when something finally clicks for them…That look is completely addictive.”

Beth’s advice: “It is never too late to try something new! Stretch those brain cells by learning something and come get dirty in our art rooms!”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. If you’re interested in taking any of Dalal’s amazing art classes this semester, visit our website at http://www.acarts.org. We can’t wait to see what you create this Fall!

Camper raises money for ACA

A most warm and sincere thank you to one of our returning campers this week, who once again demonstrated her clear enthusiasm for and dedication to ACA’s summer arts programs. Ella Bengtson, a veteran camper of ACA’s summer camps and a member of the Oceans group this week, donated the proceeds from a lemonade sale she held on Thursday to help maintain ACA’s classroom supplies.

Bengtson, who has been attending ACA’s summer camps for over 3 years, noticed a pencil sharpener in one of the classrooms was working more slowly than usual – and a light bulb went off. “I just needed to. This was important to me because the people at ACA are so awesome and there should be good supplies.”


Bengtson, along with her friend Sofia, raised close to $60, which they donated in full to ACA – no small feat. Most important, however, was the fun Bengtson had. “We had a lot of fun. We’re gonna do a lemonade stand for UNICEF next.”

ACA wants to thank Bengtson again for her generous donations to our organization. We’re sure Bengtson, who will become a Counselor-in-Training at ACA next summer, will continue to be an enormous asset to our camp programs!

Sheehan brings innovation to “Fashion Design” Teen Studio Class

“Re-Design or Re-Fashion is an alteration intending to bring excitement to a boring garment and to re-make an existing garment to fit your personality,” says Elizabeth Cole Sheehan, a veteran costume designer with over 25 years of professional costuming and design experience.


Costumes for “Precious Bane” designed by Sheehan. Photo by Susan Grimm.

If the intention of fashion re-design is about creatively re-envisioning the materials currently at your fingertips, then Sheehan is the perfect match for ACA’s “Fashion Design and Re-Design” Teen Studio this summer. In “Fashion Design and Re-Design,” students will have the opportunity to creatively re-envision and re-use existing garments with their own creative spin. Sheehan will bring her design and costuming expertise to this fun and engaging studio class intended for teens looking to explore their interests in fashion and design.
Having worked as the Costume Director for various productions through the Randolph Theater Company, Ballet Theatre of Boston, and Boston Conservatory of Music, just to name a few, Sheehan has developed quite the fashion design repertoire: everything from designing costumes for successful productions of The Nutcracker and Alice in Wonderland to creating an 1850s era costume for Ellen Jackson, the daughter of a prominent abolitionist who lived in Newton, Massachusetts for the Jackson Homestead Museum.


Costumes for “Precious Bane” designed by Sheehan. Photo by Susan Grimm.

Sheehan, who has costumed plays, musicals, opera and ballet in colleges, high schools, summer stock, community and professional theatre, is never afraid to take creative risks when it comes to fashion design. She notes: “As a costumer, I stretch my budget with unconventional fabric choices. For A Midsummer Night Dream, a damask table cloth became a wedding gown. In Precious Bane, the young female lead’s peach eyelet gown started life as a bed-spread, and the wizard’s long luxurious brocade coat was made from a shower-curtain.

Sheehan is also always up for a creative design challenge. She states: “In the classroom, I’m a teacher that sincerely enjoys the challenge of helping students navigate a design path of new discovery.”


Costumes for “Precious Bane” designed by Sheehan. Photo by Susan Grimm.

In “Fashion Design and Re-Design,” students will have the opportunity to sketch their designs, shop for the right materials in local thrift stores, and create something new and uniquely personal out of existing materials. Students interested in exploring and expanding their fashion design skills have two opportunities to take this fun and engaging Teen Studio program this summer; “Fashion Design and Redesign” will run twice this summer, during Week 7 (08/03 – 08/07) and Week 9 (08/17 – 08/21).
Come join us for an innovative and creative program for teens looking to make a splash in the fashion world or just to explore a different artistic medium. For more information, call ACA’s office at (781)-648-6220 or visit our website at http://www.acarts.org.

Maureen McAfee and Ziza Soares Receive ACA’s Community Arts Leadership Award

On Thursday, June 4th, ACA was fortunate to be a part of Arlington High School’s annual Senior Awards night, which served to recognize and honor the diverse accomplishments of AHS’s graduating class. ACA presented the 5th annual John Cinkala Community Arts Leadership Award to two graduating AHS seniors: Ziza Soares and Maureen McAfee. The John Cinkala Community Arts Leadership Award is generously supported by former President of the Board of Directors for the Arlington Center for the Arts John Cinkala and aims to recognize graduating seniors who have demonstrated creativity and leadership in building community relationships through the arts.

This year’s recipients couldn’t better exemplify the values of this most prestigious award. Ziza Soares, through her work with the Thompson Drama Project, successfully directed 25 children in a highly popular dramatic rendition of The Queen’s New Clothes. Originally brought on as the Assistant Director for what was planned to be one long play, Ziza skillfully transitioned into the role of principal director when the Thompson Drama Project announced it would instead be producing four shorter plays due to the unprecedented number of children who enrolled in the program.

Ziza Soares, center, directed 25 students in an immensely popular rendition of

Ziza Soares, center, directed 25 students in an immensely popular rendition of “The Queen’s New Clothes.”

Maureen McAfee, Thursday night’s second recipient of the John Cinkala Community Arts Leadership Award, was an integral member of a team of young artists who lead a mural-making project for the Fox Library. McAfee, an accomplished painter and artist, worked with a group of students to transform one of the meeting rooms at the Fox library from a drab basement into a lasting work of art for all to enjoy.

ACA was honored and proud to award these two accomplished community artists and continue John Cinkala’s important work of recognizing and empowering young emerging artists within the Arlington community!

Contemporary Watercolor: Juror Statement by Marjorie Glick

I chose works where the artist’s chosen subject was original or personal.  I looked for a connection between the subject matter and the best that watercolor has to offer in terms of transparency, fluidity, and jewel like colors.  I was drawn to works with vivid, balanced, or thoughtful use of color. I feel that colors in a painting should invite the viewer to linger over the image. I also prize watercolors that are direct, transparent, and show a spontaneity in their use of the water part of watercolor.   A good watercolor should look like a watercolor and not an oil painting.

Thank you to all who submitted works. I enjoyed seeing so many wonderful watercolors.  There were many difficult choices to be made but in the end, thanks to your submissions, we have a show here that gives us much to savor and enjoy.

Prize Winners:

sanderswatsonJoyful Return, Pam Watson

I loved the fresh exuberant take on the subject of flowers, The colors are jewel like and transparent and it was interesting to me how the artist seemed to compose the image in an organic and intuitive way. The painting felt spontaneous and joyful.  It is also a beautifully crafted watercolor.


Karen Fitzgerald & Marjorie Glick

Watercourse Encounter, Karen Fitzgerald

I loved the energy of the moving water and the many marks and strokes that were layered to express the motion of the stream. There was freshness and spontaneity in the way the layers were applied and I was drawn to the vibrant blue color. The subject and the artists interpretation are perfect for the medium of watercolor.


Italian Journal, Lorraine Sullivan

I enjoyed the symmetry of this diptych and the way the figure on each panel was related to the other. There is a skillful and seamless weaving together of elements of watercolor, drawing and collage and, of figure, place and time.


Ellen’s House, Gwen Chasan:

The artists’ skillful use of yupo paper really showed the slippery watery nature of this medium. The pairing of many energetic lines and the watery application of earthy colors are the perfect expression for a nest- the artist’s subject.  There is also an intimacy to the painting, like you are peering into the nest that you’ve just discovered. A very expressive work.

Juror’s Statement by Erin Becker

I was so honored when Linda Shoemaker asked me to select work for Arlington Center for the Arts’ annual Members Juried Show.  On a wintery Wednesday in January, I had the pleasure of viewing over 130 pieces of art created by the talented members of the ACA community.

As the Director of the Cambridge Art Association, I have the opportunity to work with local artists on a daily basis – and am constantly impressed and inspired by the output of local artists.  My experience at ACA affirmed the strengths of the local visual arts community.

Nika by Tony Fenn

Nika by Tony Fenn

It is fascinating to see the groupings that emerge in a group show environment. In this exhibit, I found a particular strength in the following groupings:  figurative work; geometric abstracts, and scenes from nature.  Tony Fenn’s Nika embodies a tenderness and femininity – a stark contrast to the bold, geometric lines of Joan Goodman’s work.

Standing II by Joan Goodman

Standing II by Joan Goodman

I loved the way Jennifer Ingram captured a historic Arlington moment in Blue Willow – the simplicity of the piece drew me back to it time and again.


Erin Becker, Jennifer Ingram and Linda Shoemaker, in front of Blue Willow

Finally, I found myself drawn to Tim Wilson’s photograph – an image of endless summer that is the perfect antidote to New England winter.  The strengths of the work of ACA’s members is abundant, and I had fun in capturing the conversations between individual artworks.

Detail of Busy Times by Tim Wilson

Detail of Busy Times by Tim Wilson

Thank you to Linda Shoemaker and the staff of ACa, who made the process a pleasure.  Enjoy the show!

2015 Members Exhibit: Reflections of Jurying Day

Hello!  My name is Virginia and I’m a college student who is interning here at ACA for a few weeks to learn about community arts and gallery work.  On my first day at ACA I watched Erin Becker, the Director of the Cambridge Art Association, jury the 2015 Members Exhibit.


When Erin first walked into the room, there was art everywhere you looked, leaning against the walls and covering all the tables and pedestals.  Just scanning the room you could see the wealth of talent and mass of hard work each artist put into each submission. After walking around the room slowly, Erin began to pull art– taking a few pieces here, a few there.  Occasionally she would ask if two pieces, works that had a similar style, were made by the same artist.  I think she did not want one voice or perspective to be over-represented.   Most of the time though she worked quietly, going with her gut on what felt right and what didn’t quite fit.  Several works she would pick up carry to the other side of the room only to be moved again a few minutes later.   Despite the constant changes, there was a method to her decisions.  As Erin continued to pull works, groups began to appear.  She placed pieces with similar color schemes and textures closer together to see how they talked to one another.  There was a mix of media represented in any given group: a photograph next to a pastel drawing, next to a sculpture and yet it made sense.

As Erin chose work and grouped them together, she sometimes thought aloud.  She would ask Pam about the configuration of the room, whether some works would be too crowded in a corner.  By the time she finished the hundred-plus works were reduced to fifty-two.  What was left was a great collection of work with no extraneous pieces, the jurying was complete.   Speaking as an artist who often gets caught-up in my own work, I found it really beneficial to witness the consolidation and placement decisions.  I got to see how a show incorporates one artist’s work and actually enhances it by juxtaposing it with the work of others. Overall, I am really happy with how the show turned out and look forward to seeing everyone’s reactions this Friday!

CIT Spotlight

This posting was written by Hannah, a returning CIT at Vacation Arts Camp.


The Counselor-in-Training program is for teens 12-15 years old, who are interested in being a counselor at ACA’s Vacation Arts Camp someday.  In the mornings we learn leadership skills, then we eat snack with the campers.  After snack, we split up and go to different classrooms.  CITs help the teachers during classes.  During lunch, we talk to the campers and then during recess we play with them.  After lunch, we get to make art of our own. 

On Thursdays, the CITs go on a field trip.  We’ve gone to the MFA, MIT, the Aquarium and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  When we get back, we usually stop for ice cream at the Capitol Creamery.  It’s overall very fun – I meet new CITs and see old ones each week.  Even if we don’t know each other in the beginning, by Friday we’re all friends.

100_9513The CIT art projects are very fun and interesting and challenging. Some of the projects I’ve done include screen printing a selfie onto cloth, creating a collage about my interests, hopes and dreams, and making a stamp based on a country and making a joint passport project with the rest of the CITs.  The art teachers are awesome and often let us alter the project to our liking.

Once or twice a week, the CITs lead games during recess.  A few weeks ago, we led a game called snapshot.  To play, the campers break into teams.  The teams get a subject and they have to work together to act out a still scene from a made up skit or play based on that subject.  Three CIT judges score each team for teamwork, creativity, originality and the team with the most points wins.  This time, the winning group won a prize – the privilege of throwing water at Gavin, another CIT.  The campers on the winning team got paper cups filled with water and Lydia, the CIT leader, counted down.  At zero, everyone splashed Gavin.

cit image


Overall being a CIT is great!  You learn about leadership and work skills and make so many friends.  I’ve been a CIT since I was 12 and I’ve been a camper since I was five.  I hope to be a counselor next year!

Images of Arlington at the State House

Arlington Center for the Arts’ annual exhibition, Images of Arlington, is going on tour!

DSCN0416Following the exhibition at ACA, Senator Ken Donnelly requested to show selected artwork in his offices at the State House. The artwork will hang there for up to a year and includes selections from the adult and children exhibitions. Senator Donnelly’s constituency includes his hometown of Arlington, making the show especially fitting for his offices.

To thank the artists who are loaning their work, Senator Donnelly hosted a reception and tour of the State House. We had a great time seeing the State House and even got to go onto the floor of the House! Follow this link to view all the photos.


Lastly, thank you to Senator Donnelly and his staff for a great afternoon and for supporting the arts in Arlington!

Young at Art – Meet the Teachers

Each summer, ACA welcomes its smallest campers to the Young at Art, a morning camp for 4-5 year olds.  This year, we have three new enthusiastic and energetic teachers for our young campers.  We are excited to welcome Robert, Shooka and Ashley – read more about them below!

Young at Art runs in weekly sessions through Labor Day, come join us!


For the past ten years, Robert Rogers and his students of all ages have tromped through forests, zoos, museums, and even classrooms making music, theater, and mayhem. But gentle mayhem. Good mayhem. One afternoon, his students watched a goat give birth. They composed a song of celebration on the spot and marched it to all four corners of the farm. When indoors, Robert can be found writing plays and directing musicals for children, and performing lead roles in community theater and musicals. He graduated from the Kennedy Center Training Program for Emerging Playwrights as well as the American Conservatory and Asolo Conservatory Theater residency programs. Robert holds an MFA in Playwriting for Young Audiences from Lesley University and is Early Childhood Certified in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

He loves to skate, ski, and skimboard. Alas, despite years of training and a Masters degree in mathematics, he remains incurably silly.



“Music, life and enjoyment are three inseparable concepts!”  That is the basis of Shooka Afshar’s philosophy of music.  Kids in Shooka’s classes learn to open their ears to music and harmony and to experience the power of music.   She teaches rhythm, toddler tunes, group dancing and other fun activities, all using the Dacrozian Methods, through which students use movement to learn about music.

Shooka herself fell in love with music and performing at an early age.  She watched her first classical concert on a vhs at the age four and instantly decided to become an opera singer.  She started learning piano by ear and never stopped performing.

Shooka was awarded her BA and then completed her Masters of Music in Vocal Performance at Longy School of Music. In addition to teaching in schools and the Community Music Center of Boston, Shooka also teaches flute, piano and voice to individual students.


AshleyYarnellAshley Yarnell has been performing all over the New England area since a very young age, and made her professional debut at the Publick Theatre Boston at the age of 12. Since then she has continued to pursue her love of music and all things theatrical, completing her BFA in Musical Theatre from the renowned Pace University in New York City, where she was able to partake in Master Classes with such industry names as: Jack O’Brien, Joanna Gleason, David Stone, Stephen Flaherty, Michael Greif, Victoria Clark, Jerry Mitchell, Adam Guettel, Donna Drake, Curtil Holbrook, Lonny Price, and Bob Cline. She has also performed professionally with: Rachel York, Patrick Cassidy, Lee Meriwether, and dance icon Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Following undergraduate study, Ashley decided to branch out from the musical theatre world of performing and into the world of teaching and contemporary music. She completed graduate coursework in Vocal Pedagogy, Jazz Vocals, World Music, Choral Conducting, and General Music Education at the University of Massachusetts. Since graduating in 2008, she has built up a plethora of students throughout the New England area and is extremely excited to be teaching in the very town she grew up in and inspired her love and desire for a musical life. An avid composer/lyricist as well, Ashley is looking to continue to perform and write for the live rock/blues/acoustic scene.