The Pastels group meets weekly in South Bend Park – cialisdfr
The Pastels group meets weekly in South Bend Park
The Pastels group meets weekly in South Bend Park

Teaching, listening, learning and creating. Friday Pinhook Art Group is a gathering of artists who work with crayons. They move from easel to easel looking at the progress. They are imaginative and outspoken. It’s a group of friends who support each other and give opinions. A gathering of people who quickly became friends.

Cathy McCormick leads the class and is an ardent supporter of the arts. She has been an instructor in the area for over 20 years, teaching at the South Bend Art Museum and these informal sessions. Before that another dozen years in Arizona. She also founded the Pastel Society of Northern Indiana. “It is important for me to promote art. Spread the word. Let people know what’s going on.

She said the class is skill-based. All participants have completed introductory courses. Most have been working in pastels and other media for years. “This group is here to maximize their skills and learn from each other.”

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All this support comes with a small fee — to pay for the room at Pinhook Park Community Center. The support, criticism and conversations are worth the price.

Pastels, for those who need a bit of background here, are powdered pigment with a binder. They have been used by artists since the Renaissance.

Kathy said if you have five minutes a day you can work with crayons.

Back to Pinhook. The small group of five to ten artists gathers at 10 am. They bring their works, boxes of crayons and enthusiasm. For two hours they work, talk and give opinions. Cathy presents a short lesson and discussion. Recently there has been talk about how you will know if a piece is finished. Has it ever been done? Will a little color move the eye to another piece of art? Is this a good shade of green for this?

Another class attendee is Mary Firtle, who is a well-known local artist and lecturer at the art museum. “Conversations and topics make the Friday class. I often build on my art themes on Tuesday nights at the museum. Friday is training. I can make a landscape with my eyes closed, but someone will ask me about adding a building. I need to research and study this. After all, it’s a chance to learn a little.

Mary calls Friday her “friend circle”.

Here is a perfect chance to see artwork from local artists. A showing of the work will be held April 5 through May 4 at CircaArts Gallery, 528 E. Colfax Ave., South Bend. Store hours are Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is an opening reception from 5pm to 8pm on April 5th.

Shop owner Cathy Reddy-White said the show and sale is a great way to see local artists. “They gain experience and a chance to get feedback on their work. We’ve had this show for about 12 years. It is always well received.”

The artists appreciate the show and support from CircaArts. Kathy said there is always a sale or two going on.

But back to artists and pastels. Pam Fozo, Dee Thornton and Barbara Gentner Stevenson were in a recent session. Each has its own style. Everyone loves the camaraderie that is fostered in the Friday morning sessions.

Pam said she was into the arts and loved her art classes at Washington High School. She went on to earn a degree in interior design from Ball State. She later took lessons from Kathy. He likes to create street scenes with crayons.

Dee started after retirement. Always creative but no time for lessons. “For me, the class is 90% about the people. We feed off each other. Kathy is such a great teacher, always giving a comment or idea.”

Barbara has been attending courses for over 30 years, going back to sessions with Ron Monsma, from Indiana University South Bend. She worked on commission with pen and ink. “I love both crayons and pen and ink.”

For Barbara, Friday is a good way to work together, a great way to start the weekend. “We learn a lot from each other. The conversation is easy, no arguments. As artists, we are always students, always learning. Both Mary and Cathy have a passion for teaching.”

“Kathy has been a constant and encouraging mentor to all who participate in her classes – whether at SBMA or Pinhook,” Mary said. “We have all gained more experience and confidence through her calm and insightful teaching method. I wouldn’t be where I am artistically and I wouldn’t have the skills if it wasn’t for her and I didn’t have the courage to run my own class without her support.”

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