The Art Salon in Central MA:
An Interview with Pat Bock
By David Wilson, Berkshire Fine Arts
With a B.A. in Art Education from Westfield State College and an MA in Art Education Research from the University of Massachusetts, Pat Bock has been an art teacher for over twenty years. She was a co-founder of the Brickmill Gallery in Ware, Massachusetts, served as a board member of the Central Massachusetts Women’s Caucus for Art and was at one time satellite galleries coordinator for the ARTSWorcester organization.
As an artist working in mixed media she says about her own work, “I’m forever putting all kinds of materials together, sanding and scratching them, mixing, mashing, ripping, tearing and putting them back together…It’s that mixed media mayhem that I really like.”
When I sat down with Pat a week ago, ostensibly to discuss her 2011-2012 Art Teas schedule, I had little idea how wide a spectrum of ideas we would end up exchanging. Here in a somewhat distilled form is the essence of our conversation.
BFA: Pat, I know you wear a lot of hats here at the Eagle Hill School and Cultural Center. Besides your teaching, you curate the Spaces Gallery program, coordinate the STAR residency program, and oversee the Art Teas – a series of artist talks. What can you tell us about the programs you have planned for this year?
PAT: This year’s Art Teas will launch two new directions. First, a promising student artist, Lex Zee, will be one of the featured presenters. Second, musicians Chuck & Mud will tell us their story, and begin the regular inclusion of musicians in the schedule.
The Cultural Center’s Spaces Gallery will offer three exhibits this season. “Mind Motion”, and “Balance and Flow” will be group shows of Pioneer Valley artists, followed by a student, faculty, and alumni show in the spring.
This year’s STAR residency program is “Show, the Story: A Sequential Arts Residency” with comic artists Bret Herholz, Veronica Fish, and Ian Jones.
BFA: Before we talk about other programs, let’s stay with the Art Teas for a bit. It is the closest thing to a Salon that we have in this area, Central Massachusetts. Is that the idea behind it?
PAT: Along with sharing their art, artists need more chances to share their stories. The Hillside Salon, at UMass, and occasional Pecha-Kucha events in Worcester, , offer variations on that theme. I’d love to find others. The public is invited to attend the Art Teas and mingle with our students. Connecting our students with artists in the relaxed setting of the Art Teas lets them experience, with some intimacy, each artist’s journey. When art students see how much common ground they share with our speakers, it’s easier for them to visualize themselves as artists. And for non-art students, it helps them consider art as a natural part of their lives that’s easy to relate to. For the students in our program who concentrate on art, it also provides ideas about possible career paths.
BFA: I did note last year that as the season progressed, attendance by both students and the public grew considerably. How do you decide who will be your speakers?
PAT: Whether they are from the circle of artists I’m familiar with, have been recommended to me, or are artists whose work I’ve seen and been intrigued by, an important consideration for Art Tea artists is their appeal to our students. It’s wonderful when students make suggestions. Art Tea artists must be willing to share their stories and feel comfortable engaging in conversations with a diverse audience. (Tea and pastries really help!)
BFA: Is it difficult to find artists willing to do that?
PAT: Not at all. I’ve found that most artists really like to talk about their lives and work. What’s more, they enjoy the audience’s interest and questions, particularly from the students. In turn, the students really respond to being taken seriously by the artists.
BFA: By the time this gets posted, the October Tea with Angela Fina will have taken place, but we can provide notice of the rest and links to samples of their work.
I notice that you list your March artist, Gus Block, as a knitter.
PAT: Gus is a real renaissance man. He’s a long distance runner, a writer, an inventor; he transposes songs, raises sheep, spins and dyes his own wool and then knits original patterns with it. When I had requests from within the school and from the community for a knitter, Gus was the number one recommendation.
BFA: Pat, that connects back to what you said earlier about art being a natural part of our lives.
PAT: Yes, Art Teas highlight the “artistic life”. For instance, last year, Kate Morreale, an artist who describes herself as a potter and a farmer, brought one of her prize chickens to her talk. While she was showing slides of her pottery and studio, the chicken stole the show! Gus, too, lives an artistic life. Though he’ll focus on knitting, I’m sure it will become apparent that his creativity infuses all aspects of his life and relationships.
BFA: Given that most of these people we have talked about live with art as an element at the core of their life, I suspect that there are many more that may not be as talented or who have not developed the discipline in any specific area, but nonetheless their appreciation and pursuit of art strongly influences their life and choices. I guess what I am trying to say is that there are a lot of undiscovered artists walking around out there, undiscovered even by themselves.
PAT: I’d guess that Gus may not think of himself as an “artist” in the usual sense. But this view gives students coming to the Art Teas, but who may not be planning to pursue the arts, the example that creativity still has a role in how they live their life. I would count that a wonderful thing.
BFA: I can see that it is the Eagle Hill student around which the program focuses. Does that carry through to the gallery exhibits as well?
PAT: It does. All of the exhibiting artists interact with our students in a variety of ways, including demonstrations, workshops, and all-school talks. When possible, we also extend that practice to the Cultural Center’s roster of performing artists. For example, the Riedel Dance Troupe will perform towards the end of this month and they will present a hands-on workshop in dance actively involving the students. In fact, all of our cultural arts programming is student centered while at the same time building bonds with what has become a very supportive public community.
BFA: Thank you Pat.
On Saturday October 8th, preceding the David Mallett concert a gallery reception was held to celebrate the first exhibit of the season. Entitled Mind Motion and featuring a series of paintings from Rochelle Shicoff’s “Behind the Dreams” series, the exhibit also displays the fluid geometric meditations of Kim Carlino and the urbane, richly colored, multilayered photographs of Easthampton artist, Denise M. Riggs. Ms. Riggs achieves her remarkable results without cropping or editing. This exhibit will remain open Until January 20, 2012. On longer loan and still on display are several large works by another premier Easthampton artist, Marcia Reed. Although not formally part of the Mind Motion exhibit, this observer them to complement the theme quite well.
On Wed, October 12th, the Art Tea season kicked off with eminent Berkshire potter, Angela Fina. She spoke and answered questions, sharing in much detail the events and the artistic choices she had made in pursuit of her art. The appreciative audience was made up of students, faculty and many members of the Hardwick community. The Art Teas schedule for the rest of the season is as follows.
Randy Stevens: - November 9, 2011
Lisa Greene: - January 11, 2012
Morroco Flowers: - February 8, 2012
Gus Block: - March 14, 2012
Lex Zee: - April 18, 2012
Chuck & Mud: - May 9, 2012
See this article in its original context, including images, here.