- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2002

Artist Craig Kraft creates a glow with his sculptures and wants to show others how he does it.Mr. Kraft, who owns Kraft Studio in Northwest, includes neon lights in the artwork he creates. Much of the time, he incorporates the incandescent glass into the human-body shaped sculptures he makes from copper.
“It’s eye-catching,” he says. “It’s very in your face. It can create an entire atmosphere. There’s something unique about the glow of neon. It’s used in architectural lighting, commercial retail and the fine arts.”
He enjoys designing art this way so much that he plans to teach a five-week course starting at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 29 called “Neon Light Sculpture,” which is sponsored by the Smithsonian Associates in Southwest. The Smithsonian Associates serves as the cultural and educational outreach arm of the Smithsonian Institution.
Mr. Kraft’s class is just one example of the sundry of local courses offered in the upcoming months for those who want to expand their education. Various organizations hold noncollegiate classes on topics ranging from fiction writing to fashion design throughout the winter season.
Mr. Kraft says students finish one project by the end of his course. He takes about 12 students for each session, which costs $160 for members of the Smithsonian Associates, $205 for nonmembers, plus a $75 supply fee. He tries to inspire them with his own artwork, which he displays throughout his studio and home.
His sculpture “Cross Currents: East and West,” which appeared at the Howard County Center for the Arts in Ellicott City, Md., decorates his living room. The sculpture involves 10 human figures in a prostrated position on the floor with blue light radiating from them.
“Students take glass tubes and put them in the fire, making them molten,” he says. “Once melted, they blow into the tube and bend it into a predetermined shape. They bombard or purify the tube with heat because it can’t have any impurity to last a long time. Then, you fill and seal the tube with gas depending on what color you want it. You use argon gas to make the glass blue and neon gas to make it red. Then, each tube is attached to a transformer to light up in a sculpture.”
Christine Cimino, public affairs manager of the Smithsonian Associates, says she encourages the public to take advantage of the opportunities the organization provides. “Since we are the Smithsonian, we have access to authors, performers and instructors that other places do not,” she says. “We have experts in the field.”
Ms. Cimino says the organization coordinates one-time classes, extended courses and study tours on many topics, ranging in price. Its Web site (www.residentassociates.org) lists the courses.
“We have programs for people who want to learn about a particular subject, but don’t want to invest as much time or money as a college course,” she says.
Last season’s most popular course, “Philosophy on Tap,” doubled in size during its final weeks due to current students spreading the word about the class, Ms. Cimino says. Participants packed the Brickskeller restaurant in Northwest for the program.
“We’re hoping that this season’s philosophy class will be just as appealing,” Ms. Cimino says.
Michael Gorman, assistant professor of philosophy at Catholic University in Northeast, plans to direct the new course, “Philosophy Cafe: What Does It Mean to Be Human?” The seven-week class will include a combination of lectures and discussion, highlighting philosophers such as John Searle, Thomas Nagel and Aristotle. The course starts at 10 a.m. Jan. 28 at Starbucks at 237 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. It costs $98 for members of the Smithsonian Associates, $90.60 for its senior members and $143 for nonmembers.
“I want to give people a chance to reflect philosophically and give them a taste of the different approaches philosophers have taken with the questions of human nature,” Mr. Gorman says. “We’re going to reflect on the human qualities of thought, feeling, consciousness and free will. Learning to reflect philosophically is an important part about being serious about your life.”
Suzanne Bethel, curriculum director at the Art League in Alexandria, says many people have used art classes as a form of therapy since the September 11 tragedies. The nonprofit school teaches about 2,500 students a term, ranging from age 5 to 80.
“Our enrollment has gone up in recent months,” Miss Bethel says. “I think a lot of people are staying closer to home.”
In the coming season, the Art League will offer workshops and classes on various subjects, such as drawing, painting, stained glass, photography and pottery. The organization holds classes at the Torpedo Factory, a Duke Street annex and a Madison Street an-nex in Alexandria. (Web site: www.theartleague.org).
Miss Bethel says students love the faux finishes workshops, where they learn to create a variety of painting effects, including sponging, ragging, combing and marbleizing. The two-day workshops cost $150 and usually contain about 18 students. The next seminars are scheduled for March 2 and 3 and March 23 and 24.
“We have a mural project at our Duke Street annex,” she says. “It’s about halfway done. A lot of faux finishers have worked on that. We’ll be working on it for at least six more months.”
Camellia Blackwell, executive director of the International Center for Artistic Development at the Historic Savage Mill in Savage, Md., says she tries to send her students home with a finished piece of artwork after every class. She teaches workshops for fourth-grade through sixth-grade children at 10 a.m. Saturday mornings in the Historic Savage Mill. During the classes, students learn painting, drawing and printmaking techniques. The current five-week series started Saturday and costs $100. She also offers private lessons for all ages. (Web site: www.camelliablackwell.com).
Ms. Blackwell is planning a special class, an African storytelling and art workshop, at 10 a.m. Feb. 9 for Black History Month. The class, which features Nigerian storyteller Ayo Durodola, costs $25.
“Children usually have an interest in the arts,” she says. “If you can capture it and direct it, you will help them be more creative as adults. When I teach adults, I usually have to go through a period where I teach them that it’s OK to make mistakes because making a mistake may lead to making something beautiful.”
Sheila Abram, owner of the Rose Cottage in the Historic Savage Mill, says she hopes students of all ages enjoy their time under her direction. She teaches decorative painting with acrylics for five weeks for $85. For the first two weeks, students work on paper, later moving to other objects, such as wooden boxes.
“The one thing I always tell my students is that we have a lot of fun,” she says. “The main requirement with me is that you have a sense of humor.”
Yolanda Voss, owner of Yolanda Voss Fashion Gallery in Savage, advises her students to keep smiles of their faces. She gives lessons on elegance through Yolanda Voss Studio International. She also offers such programs as fashion illustration, color coordination, makeup, hair care, manicure, nutrition, diction, public speaking, etiquette, modeling, photography and self-image. Her classes, held in the Historic Savage Mill, range in price from $150 to $1,550. The programs range in length. (Web site: www.yolandavoss.com).
She says the corporate world takes advantage of her instruction on a regular basis, especially women who want to enhance their image after a pregnancy or job promotion. Occasionally, men take her classes, too.
“We are treated by the way we look,” Mrs. Voss says. “First impressions are very important. In a land of prosperity, there is no excuse for ladies not to look great. When Americans travel overseas, they should realize we are ambassadors of this great land.”
Rachel Bucci, director of marketing and communications at the Textile Museum in Northwest, says the programs sponsored by the gallery create cultural understanding, which helps Americans broaden their horizons. The organization offers free Saturday classes on varying topics at 10:30 a.m. This upcoming Saturday, Marjorie Ransom, a former overseas diplomat, will present a lecture called “Jewelry From the Arabian Peninsula: Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan.” (Web site: www.textilemuseum.org.
“People have an opportunity to get up close and look at the items,” she says. “They are able to see the examples that are being discussed instead of just learning from a book.”

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