Making art at Woodmere’s studio

by Stacia Friedman
Posted 9/22/22

The most exciting art at Woodmere Art Museum is not always in the galleries. Often it’s in the former carriage house right next door. 

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Making art at Woodmere’s studio


The most exciting art at Woodmere Art Museum is not always in the galleries. Often it’s in the former carriage house right next door. 

This is the studio where community members of all ages and abilities explore their creativity under the guidance of professional artists, experiencing the joy of personal expression through art. 

And over the last ten years, that work has expanded from traditional realism to now include abstract art.

“This Fall, we offer a course that looks at the interconnection between the two,” said Hildy Tow, the Robert L McNeil Jr. Curator of Education. She is referring to “Look Both Ways: The Interconnection between Representation and Abstraction with a Focus on Women Artists,” a Zoom class taught by award winning painter and printmaker, Lesa Chittenden Lim.  

This is not a lecture course. Participants are encouraged to work in the medium of their choice – oils, acrylics, pastels, pencil, fabrics - and receive individual and group critiques. This course has a waiting list, but there’s still time to enroll in the next session which starts in November.

Traditional Painting

Abstraction isn’t for everyone, said Paul DuSold, who has been teaching at Woodmere for more than 20 years and currently offers courses in portrait painting. 

Originally from North Carolina, DuSold first came to Philadelphia in 1981 to study at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. A widely exhibited realistic artist, DuSold traces his influences to 16th and 17th century Italian and Spanish painters. 

“I like teaching at Woodmere because the classroom is a beautiful space with a large dormer window which provides poetic lighting. The staff at Woodmere are like family and working with students there has been a rich experience,” said DuSold. “Still life, landscape, figures and portraits are my preferred subject matter.”

While some may be intimidated by DuSold’s work, in class he breaks down his classic technique so that even novice painters can grasp the steps that form the foundation of a portrait painting. 

“I’ve taught at many different places and found that Woodmere is a good fit for me. It’s very fulfilling,” he said.

Children’s Art

While art created by adults in studio classes is not displayed in the Mmuseum, the artwork of children is regularly exhibited in the Helen Millard Children’s Gallery. The current exhibition Inspired by Nature, which runs through Oct. 30, was created in partnership with Mindy Flexer Art School.

“The exhibition highlights the work of young artists who came together this summer to create an installation of an ecosystem filled with real and imagined plants and animals,” said Tow.

Children and adults alike will be charmed by this floor-to-ceiling exhibition with three-dimensional representations of giraffes, dragons, lobsters, dragons and zebras. The paper mache animals frolic in various ecosystems, from an under-water environment to a lush jungle setting.

“More than 35 artists, aged ten and up, took part in designing and constructing the collaborative project,” said instructor Mindy Flexer, an accomplished artist in her own right who once taught art at Germantown Friends and Greene Street Friends Schools and runs the Mindy Flexer Art School in Germantown. “Children told us what kind of animal or plant they wanted to create and we helped them realize their vision,” Flexer said.

Growing up in Colorado, Flexer came to Philadelphia to study ceramics at University of the Arts, after earning a degree in music at Oberlin and getting a fellowship to study ceramics in Japan. “My interest in ceramics eventually caused me to transition to study painting at PAFA,” she said. 

As for teaching, it is in Flexer’s DNA. “Both my parents were educators,” she said.

“Previously, I taught a landscape class for adults at Woodmere. Aware of my experience teaching children, Woodmere asked me to do a show about climate change for the Children’s Gallery this summer,” said Flexer, who recently completed a quartet of paintings about climate-based on the elements. 

“It combined my interest in climate, justice and young artists,” she said. “Working with them to develop a hopeful perspective about a sustainable future is really important. My ceramics instructor at Uarts, Bill Daley, used to say, ‘Making art is like jumping into an empty swimming pool that fills up while you’re in the air.’ It’s taking the leap with the belief you will create the thing that will catch you. That’s what we need to do to solve the climate crisis.

“It was a fun, amazing project. There was a combination of older students helping younger ones and some of us older people learned from the younger children,” she added. “It’s terrific that Woodmere has a children’s gallery. Most museums do not.”

The project, completed this past summer, included two weeks of art classes at Woodmere and four weeks at the Mindy Flexer Art School.  

On Saturday, Oct. 1, Flexer will lead a “Make-In” at Woodmere where children will make things to be added to the existing exhibition. 

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