The Church of the Covenant, a 1914 Neoclassical Revival structure designed by Greensboro architect Harry Barton — also responsible for nearby Aycock Auditorium on the campus of UNCG — still has a Presbyterian congregation on Sundays, but during the week its labyrinthine hallways are animated by a spirit of social improvement that recalls mainline Protestantism’s best days.
A group of young, Hispanic mothers were meeting in a fellowship
hall on the fi rst fl oor. After Gateway, a nonprofi t day program
for adults with multiple or severe disabilities, received clients at
its suite of oŠ ces facing Morehead Avenue. And Bent Tuba Studio
occupies a classroom on the third fl oor.
Tracy Hart and her partner in this endeavor, Nicki Deyton, opened their
shared studio space to the public in March as Deyton was undergoing
radiation treatment for breast cancer. They had one goal in
mind for the 90-minute workshops they o’ ered: a judgment-free
zone for adults to come make art in a joyous and playful setting
free from any expectation of perfection.
Battling cancer drew Deyton’s priorities into focus. Rather than go inside herself to pursue an artistic vision, the experience prompted her to fl ing open the door and create a creative community with Hart’s assistance.
“Cancer can kick you in the patootie,” Deyton said. “I have always
been someone who likes to be around other people. In grad school,
you have to spend a lot of time working on your own, and that’s
okay. But I like to be around people to re-energize. I get ideas from
Hart added, “She’s a teacher and a storyteller. That’s a huge
part of who she is.”
The spacious classroom was bathed in mid-morning sunlight.
A large table covered in brown paper sits in the middle of the
room. Drawings adorn the walls, and a workbench is stocked with
scissors and other art supplies. A pile of rubber stamps carved out
of erasers, including one with a leaf pattern and another bearing
the words “go make art,” lie about the table. Also among the studio
artifacts are homemade books with various bindings: French fold,
origami and accordion.
“I don’t pretend to know everybody’s motivation,” Hart said. “It’s
just fun. It’s playtime. As adults we don’t get that.”
Deyton and Hart’s model is Elizabeth Layton, an artist who began
drawing at the age of 68 by making “blind contour” self portraits in
which she avoided looking at her paper except for reference.
“She’s no better at it than you,” Hart said. “But look how much joy
she got out of it. And look at how great the images are.”
Deyton and Hart believe that creativity is innate in all people, but
many adults are discouraged from accessing it because of the crush
of day-to-day responsibilities. They also believe creativity is vital
for people to experience the fullness of life.
“You look at prehistoric people,” Deyton said. “We’re storytellers
and mark makers. We’re reintroducing people to that. Diving back
into that process helps us fi gure out who we are and where we fi t.”
Hart added that art helps people ask a question that society
tends to discourage: What do you want for yourself?
“One of the long-term goals is that we teach people to be creative,” Deyton said. “There’s permission to take that into all areas of our lives…. You allow other people to be creative in the process. Hopefully it has a positive ripple e’ ect on all aspects of our lives.”
Beginning this month, Bent Tuba Studio will o’ er 12 workshops, including needle-felted birds, torn-paper collage, papier mache bowls, aspiration cards and journaling. To learn more, visit benttuba.com.