Art appreciation is something that is cultivated over the course of one’s life, but art creation is something anyone can do at any stage of their life. The Des Moines Art Center offers a schedule of classes for children and adults who are looking to broaden their experience with art. Larry James, president of James Mortgage Corp., took art classes as a kid growing up in Des Moines. Now, nearly 50 years later, he’s reignited his interest in the subject, partly thanks to his daughter, Alison, who teaches part time at the Art Center. Last winter, at her suggestion, he returned to learn watercolor painting, and he called it “a hoot.”
“My daughter got me this thing for Christmas so that I could go back to the Art Center, and I was glad she did, because I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it,” James said. “It was just a lot of fun.”
James said one of the things that made the course enjoyable was the variety of people he encountered. “You’ll meet interesting people there from all walks of life,” James said. “There are all these different folks, from young adults to people my age, and we had so darn much fun.”
In his nearly 57 years of life, James had never painted with watercolors. After one session, he doesn’t claim to be an expert, but he does know more than before. He said the instructors and the creative environment make it easy to learn.
“Nobody is judgmental about what you do,” he said. “The teachers are more like coaches than anything else, and they give you some real solid tips. Watercolor is not an easy thing to do. Learning how to control the color has a real technique to it. Now I have a much better appreciation of watercolors and what it takes to make it look like that.”
For the future, James is considering taking another Art Center class, maybe pottery.
“Anybody can go there, with any ability at all,” he said. “They keep the classes very affordable and it’s just plain fun.”
Former attorney Gregg Narber also had exposure to the Art Center at an early age, and then again during high school. After moving back to Des Moines after spending a number of years away, he reacquainted himself with the museum, and even held a brief leadership role in its board.
“I’ve done everything there from jewelry classes to painting and printmaking; everything but clay,” Narber said. “Adding up all the years that I took classes there, it’s probably combines to be seven or eight years.” Narber, who “draws very well and paints less well,” says his lifelong love for art has kept him coming back for more classes. “It is additive,” he said. “I think it’s one of the best things I do.” Narber said he’s had less time recently to take classes, because he is attending the University of Iowa to earn his Ph.D. in history. But when he makes time for art classes, he never ceases to learn something new, something that neither law school or doctorate-level classes can teach.
“It enriches your way of looking at things,” he said. “Even if you don’t become a great painter, you learn something about painting and you look at the world a little bit differently. It’s a smart thing to do.”
Attorney Tami Logsdon likes to take jewelry classes when she can, but has tried other Art Center classes as well over the last 10 years. With myriad responsibilities to others as a mother, a law clerk to a federal judge and the co-owner of Basil Prosperi restaurant, Logsdon said she takes art classes partly for personal development and partly for relaxation.
“It’s different from what I normally do in my daily life,” Logsdon said. “This is the only thing that I do that is just for me. I can work on something that I enjoy and socialize.”
The social component is another appeal. Logsdon said she has gotten to know some of the regulars whom she’s encountered in previous classes, but even if she doesn’t know everybody, they are all connected by being in a creative environment and sharing a common interest.
“It’s always fun to talk to other people about what they’re working on,” she said. “You don’t have to be a fantastic artist; you just have to enjoy the creative process.”