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Follow Your Dreams At The LCAC Open House

By: Jan Morgan-Swegle

Steve Jobs once said, “Ideas without action aren’t ideas. They’re regrets.” Sometimes as we age, we have regrets. For some, it might be a lost love, for others a missed job opportunity.For me, it’s things that I always wanted to try, but never did. Like most of us, life got in the way and time slipped by. I have what Steve Jobs might call “learning regrets.” I always wanted to spin wet clay on a turn table like I saw in the movie “Ghost.” And, I wanted to dance, but not just any dance. I wanted to try belly dancing.

If you have the same kind of “learning regrets” that I do, you need to come to the Open House at the Leland Cultural Arts Center located at 1212 Magnolia Village Way, on Saturday, Aug. 27, from 10 am - 2 pm.

“The Open House is designed to showcase all of the classes being offered for the 2022, Fall and Winter session,” said Kristi Armstrong, Program Coordinator. “You can meet with some of the instructors or even take part in the class demonstrations to get an idea of what you would learn. The performing art classes will be on stage showing off their moves and techniques and the gallery walls of the Cultural Arts Center will display works by some of the instructors.”

Kristi said, “​Our classes range in length anywhere from one hour to three hours for our 6-week classes, but we also offer workshops that range in length of time. Most of our private lessons are eight weeks and can be 30 minutes to an hour long.”

While at the Cultural Arts Center, I met Anthony, a Leland resident. Like me, Anthony wanted that “Ghost” and clay experience, but unlike me, he did something about it. Anthony has been taking pottery lessons for the past four years at the Arts Center. He makes mugs, bowls and kitchen paraphernalia. Anthony said, “I love this place. It’s convenient, it has great equipment and a great staff. No matter who your instructor is, you’ll learn something new and have a good time doing it.”

Talking to Anthony spurred my “clay on a wheel” obsession, so I spoke to his teacher, Claire Clemmons, who will be teaching the Youth and Adult Pottery classes this season. Claire is a wonderful example of the caliber of instructor that the Arts Center has on staff. She has been teaching at the Center for the past two years, but got hooked on pottery when she attended a camp in Wilmington that offered pottery instruction when she was eight years old. Going back to that “life gets in the way” theory, Claire didn’t get back into pottery until years later when the stress of taking care of a sick parent was overwhelming. She took a pottery class to relax and enjoy a few hours of creativity and found the love of the art form all over again.

When Claire teaches children, they talk about the origins of pottery and about the type of clay that can be found in this area. The students see every part of the process of making something out of clay—even learning about the kiln to fire their artwork. The kiln can reach temperatures of 2200 degrees. Claire said, “While they don’t actually touch or get near the kiln, it’s important that they understand the entire process of what they are doing.” Claire’s students do seasonal projects and one, “Do Your Own Thing,” project at the end of the season. They also do group projects. This year they will be adding to a new installation going out front that will include colorful butterflies and other animals.

For her adult classes, Claire teaches “wheel throwing” and “hand-building.” Wheel throwing is exactly what it sounds like. You take wet clay and throw it on a rotating wheel. The rotating wheel has a foot pedal that controls the speed. To begin the project, you start out at a high rate of speed so you can center your clay and get even wall thickness as you shape the piece. As you finally get to the refining or finishing of the throwing, you work at a lower rate of speed.

Hand-building is the oldest method of making pottery, dating back thousands of years. It is the process of manipulating or pinching clay into a form without using a wheel. Hand-builders usually make pinched pots, coiled pots or slab pots.

I asked Claire if people know what their finished product is going to look like and she responded, “Sometimes new people say that the clay has a mind of its own and that it’s morphing into what it wants to be. I say, you should know what you want your piece to look like. Around here we say, we don’t let the clay push us around, we push the clay around!”

Claire said the best part of teaching is knowing that people use what she makes in their everyday life. “I love teaching. There is this light bulb moment when you know that the students you are teaching really understand what they are doing and are enjoying the process. It’s the best!” She said.

After getting excited about pottery, I spoke to Christina Fatum, who will be teaching belly dancing classes at the Center this season. Christina has been teaching at the Cultural Arts Center for two years. She prefers that her students are 16 or older, but she does make exceptions if a mother and daughter want to take the class together. Christina told me, “The average age of people taking my class is around 30, but I have a student that takes multiple classes that will be 80 years old in December!”

The history of this particular dance is amazing. It's been suggested that the first belly dancers were known as “Ghawazee,” and were considered to be gypsies from Egypt in the 18th century. A popular theory is that the dance evolved from religious dances done in Egypt and India. Others think that belly dancing began as a traditional “birthing practice” to help ease the pain of childbirth.

I have seen people belly dance and I love the smooth, fluid movement, but I asked Christina, “How do you teach people to do this?” She responded, “There are different styles of belly dance and each style varies by region, but there are basic or fundamental steps and moves that every belly dancer should know and we start with those. In belly dance, we have traveling steps, but the hop and chest isolations are called moves. First is the “Shimmy,” then, hip drops, lifts and hip circles. Every move done in the hips is also executed in the upper body, like your shoulders and/or your chest.”

There are “Percussive” moves, done with the hips that are meant to punctuate the music or accent the beat. The “Fluid” movements mean that the body is in a continuous motion. These moves are meant to interpret lines and sections of the music. The dancer moves in a figure eight loop.

“Most people that take my class tell me that they want to get out of their comfort zone and try something new,” Christina said. “Sometimes, people have seen the dance done first hand and just fell in love with the style of the music and dance. It is a form of exercise, but I encourage my students to have fun with it. Like most dancing, you can work up a sweat doing it.”

So, how did Christina learn how to belly dance? “My grandmother took up belly dancing in the late 70s just for exercise and she fell in love with it,” she explained. “She became very good at it and started teaching me and the general public. She and I danced together for seven years, but I stopped performing during the time I was in high school and college. That doesn’t mean I stopped dancing and learning from my grandmother, I just didn’t perform at that time.” Years later, in 2004, she took a belly dancing class and seven years later, became a certified instructor, teaching in various locations in Wilmington for the past eight years.

Just like Claire and Anthony, Christina enjoys being at the Cultural Arts Center. “This place is amazing. The staff is wonderful. It’s convenient and parking is easy,” she said.

So, what are you waiting for? Roll up your sleeves, spin the wheel or get ready to Shimmy! If that’s not your thing, take a look in the class listing guide. There’s something to learn and do for everybody and for all ages. Go to the Leland Cultural Arts Center Open House on Aug. 27 from 10 am - 2 pm, and sign up to have a ball this season.


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