ARTicles: “How Artists See”
by Sadie F. Dingfelder

Ever felt frustrated that your drawing of a hat is a hat…but, not the hat in the still life in front of you? The person you drew does look like a person, but not necessarily the person you intended to draw? It’s missing something.

Good news! Evolutionarily speaking, your brain is doing exactly what it should be doing.  It is filling in gaps for you, making your hat look like a stereotypical hat rather than the hat in front of you. Better news! You can train yourself to see things as they really are by taking art classes and learning how to see things as they really are. Check out this page for our drawing and painting classes.  

Bonus: Ever wonder why artists sometimes squint or close one eye when they are drawing?  The answer is here, along with an in depth look at how artists see.


“Can you sketch a landscape, or even a convincing piece of fruit? If not, chances are that your brain is getting in the way, says painting teacher and landscape artist David Dunlop.

“People don’t see like a camera,” he says. “We go through life anticipating what we are going to see and miss things — which is why so many wedding invitations go out with the wrong date.”

In his art classes, one of the first things Dunlop tells students is to stop identifying objects and instead see scenes as collections of lines, shadows, shapes and contours. Almost instantly, students sketches look more realistic and three-dimensional.”

ARTicles: “Images and Poetry Combine in an Exploration of Identity at the Alice”
by Margo Vansynghel

“Double Consciousness” by Nancy and Rashaad Thomas, archival glicée print, 2017

Phoenix Center for the Arts’ Engagement Manager, Rashaad Thomas, and his poetry group, Gutta Collective were recently featured in City Arts Magazine, in an article about the collective’s participation in an exhibition at the Alice Gallery in Georgetown.


“Stepping into the Alice is like unwrapping a birthday gift: The surprise is expected but nonetheless wonderful. Since 2014, the Georgetown gallery has been reaching beyond the Seattle bubble to reel in artists from all over the U.S. and connect them with writers-in-residence. In /what are we but lying single surface/, a compact but exciting group exhibition combined with a series of readings, co-curators Molly Mac and Natalie Ann Martínez ramp up the Alice’s literary links.

The connections between the works on display—paintings, videos, photos, collage and text—are unclear at first glance, as vague as the broad strokes of the exhibition statement describing “themes of identity, place, family, language, collaboration and self-making.” But a patient eye allows the show to reveal itself gradually.”

by Sarah L. Kaufman, Dani Player, Jayne Orenstein, May-Ying Lam, Elizabeth Hart and Shelly Tan

Every 2nd Wednesday of the month, Phoenix Center for the Arts dedicates a portion of our staff meeting to discussing an arts, culture, or community-related article. Today’s article, “This Is Your Brain on Art,” was suggested by Thunderbird Class Manager, Lindsey.


“If you think about it, having a great time at the theater defies logic in many ways. We’re surrounded by strangers, bombarded with unusual images and often faced with a wordless language of symbols. Yet, on a good night, we generally laugh more, cry more and enjoy ourselves more at a live performance than when we’re watching TV at home. We may even lose ourselves and feel connected to something larger. How does this happen?

Some of the answers to art’s mysteries can be found in the realm of science. Art is considered the domain of the heart, but its transporting effects start in the brain, where intricate systems perceive and interpret it with dazzling speed. Using brain-imaging and other tools of neuroscience, the new field of neuroaesthetics is probing the relationship between art and the brain.”

Read more of this fascinating article by clicking the link above!

Instructor Highlight: Marilyn Johnson, Glass
by Justin Harrison, Summer 2017 Communications Intern


Marilyn Johnson has been an instructor at the Phoenix Center for the Arts for 3 years. She began taking glass fusing classes at the Center in 2000. She is currently retired, but taught special education for 28 years. Marilyn enjoys spending her time working on personal projects in her home studio. When asked about some of her favorite memories of teaching at the Center, she explained that her happiest moments are when students meet their personal goals and exceed what she can create herself. Some of her recent personal projects have included different types of hanging pieces and wall art.

Q&A with Marilyn Field

What is your favorite part about teaching Glass?

After teaching regular public school, it’s really nice to not have tests and grades and to let people create things the way they want. I also like that most people have not been exposed to glass artwork, so they don’t have preconceived notions about how their work should be. It opens you up to experimenting and playing with the medium like you would as a kid, and brings out unique personality traits in each art piece.

What do you think makes Phoenix Center for the Arts such a great place to be?

For one, it’s very down to earth and accepting. I think they allow people to create more freely, doing things as they wish. I think it’s also a nice place to take a breath from responsibilities and be able to spend time with other people enjoying stress-free creativity.

What do you think Phoenix Center for the Arts will look like 10 years from now?

I’d love to see an expansion, the area is becoming a very hip place and I’d love to see a whole new facility. More space would definitely have more people coming to classes.

Any closing thoughts?

For me, there’s really a joy in sharing my knowledge and knowing that I’m not the master of all masters. We all share as a team and it’s a mutual kind of learning environment. I love not having to grade people, and instead focusing on the content of their work and watching people blossom. For any prospective students–once a month, I do a workshop for anyone who is seeking exposure to working with glass fusing. It’s a great opportunity to see if they’d like to sign up for a regular class.

Liz, a student of Marilyn’s, has taken 4 or 5 glass classes at the Phoenix Center for the Arts. When asked if she has had a favorite class at the Center, she explained that the introductory courses as some of her favorites, because she was just beginning to learn glass and starting to understand it. She also enjoyed a class exploring frit-lace, a technique in glass fusing that she was not initially sure how to apply to her work. In the future, she is looking forward to taking a class called “Thick Glass Block Construction, ” in which students use multiple layers of glass to create a sense of depth in their pieces.

Q&A with Liz, glass student

What do you think makes the Phoenix Center for the Arts such a great place to be?

The teacher, Marilyn, really makes me want to come to class. She’s such a positive force, and that makes it fun to class but also to learn more about glass.

Phoenix Center for the Arts Summer Camp 2017
Session 3 – Week 1, July 10-14
by Vritika Patni, Summer 2017 Camp Marketing Intern


This week with Miss Antoinette, our campers explored with one of the fundamental principles of art: space. Miss Antoinette first began by asking the kids what comes to mind when they think of the word “space. “ She then continued to explain the concept of depth and dimensions. Miss Antoinette drew attention to the fact that placing certain objects farther away can achieve the illusion of actually being in the canvas, adding another dynamic to your picture. The campers then used this information in creating their own spaceships using plastic coffee lids, straws, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, ribbons, and rhinestones. After the kids were done building their projects, Miss Antoinette would spray paint the individual pieces a metallic silver color. The next project will involve wooden panels, which the kids will paint to depict their own galaxies.

A camper builds a spaceship

With Miss Jessica, our campers used the techniques of marbling and splatter-painting to create mixed media collages. The kids used toothbrushes to flick a thin film of white paint (resembling stars) onto blue and black construction paper (resembling a sky). Next, Miss Jessica sprayed a pile of shaving cream onto each of the campers’ desks, which they smoothed out with popsicle sticks, and swirled with paint. The kids then pressed a clean sheet of paper on top of their mixtures, leaving them with a cool marbled design from which they would create their “planets.”

Campers using shaving cream to create their marbled designs

Finished mixed media collages

The campers also made their own miniature alien puppets and an accompanying back drop. They cut around the inner rim of a paper plate, and folded it back to create a UFO-like formation. They then colored and cut out paper aliens, which they glued onto popsicle sticks, for their puppets.

Two campers smile with their finished projects

Q&A with a summer camper:

Why did you choose the colors you did?

“The pink side is for the pink alien and the green side is for the green alien.”

Why did you decide to add three eyes on each alien?

“Just because I like those kinds of aliens. They’re cute.”

In theatre with Mr. Derek, our campers brainstormed themes for their upcoming performances on an “Idea Board.” Mr. Derek intended for this activity to be high-energy and filled with laughter, encouraging the kids to pitch any and all suggestions. The excitement seemed contagious, as most of the campers who were shy at first eventually opened up and became active participants. The kids also worked on “Three-Word Skits,” in which Mr. Derek assigned each group a series of random words, which they would weave into a cohesive storyline. He told the campers to think about what emotions they wanted their audience to feel when presented with their skit, and told the kids to make a conscious effort to incorporate those emotions into their plot. After their performance, each group would receive feedback, to ensure they would know exactly what to improve upon for next time.

Campers getting ready to perform their skit

A group receiving feedback on their play

What the campers seemed most excited about, however, was creating their own commercials. They worked in small groups to come up with the foundations of their advertisement, including a name for their product, its price, where to buy it, a telephone number/website, and a jingle. Then, using the props Mr. Derek had laid out on the table, they presented their skits in front of the class.

Brainstorming ideas for a commercial

Finalizing the storyline for their advertisement

In music with Mr. Michael, our campers actively worked with the app, iMachine, to create their own personalized music tracks. The app mimics MPC drum pads, and allows the kids to use a sequencer to layer beats at varying tempos. The two key concepts behind this activity were collaboration an experimentation. Campers worked in groups to create their songs, which encouraged them to listen to each other’s input to decide what made it to the final track. Using the app also made it easy for our campers to try out different rhythms. If they didn’t like the way something sounded, it could easily be deleted and replaced.

Collaborating on their track

Also in music this week, our campers were introduced to the basics of music theory. Mr. Michael had drawn out a grid on the chalkboard, which he filled with symbols representing different sounds, like that of a kickdrum, the high hat on a drum set, and a snare drum. Each class took turns practicing the drum sequence by making the different sounds in the order in which they were written in. Our campers then used markers and crayons to create their own sequence of sounds, which they performed in front of one another at the end of class. This activity helped the kids associate an icon with an actual sound, just like real music notes.

In dance with Miss Michaela, our campers continued to engage in their everyday warmup, played some of their favorite games, like “Four Corners” and “Statues,” and rehearsed choreography for their upcoming performance.

Stretching during dance

Instructor Highlight: Pam Harrison, Ceramics
by Justin Harrison, Summer 2017 Communications Intern


Pam first joined the Phoenix Center for the Arts family in 1990 as a student taking ceramics classes. Since then, her kids have participated in youth classes, she has explored a new medium through jewelry making, she has spent the past eight years teaching ceramics classes at the Center.

When asked about some of her favorite teaching memories, she fondly described the way that classmates get to know each other and become a sort of “a home away from home,” where they can always be found having fun and even hosting parties at the end of each session.

Some of Pam’s recent personal projects in ceramics include a series of pieces featuring different textures in different forms, such as tumblers, vases, bowls, and wall pieces. She has also worked on two platters featuring the blue-footed booby, a bird species she witnessed on a recent trip to the Galapagos island.

Q&A with Pam Harrison

What is your favorite part about teaching Ceramics?

My favorite part is seeing how creative everyone is in their own way and being able to share my experience with other people, while also learning from the students.

What do you think makes the Phoenix Center for the Arts such a great place to be?

For one thing, Joseph Benesh is a great Director. He’s made a big difference for everyone here. We have a lot of really talented instructors and the Ceramics Department makes a great team. It’s a great place to spend time.

What do you think Phoenix Center for the Arts will look like 10 years from now?

Hopefully, we’ll have a little bigger facility – especially the Ceramics department could use that. I hope we continue to grow and become more well-known in the Phoenix community, so that students know we’re here and that we have classes they can sign up for.

Any closing thoughts?

I enjoy teaching and helping everyone feel comfortable, so that students are able to have fun, enjoy their time here, and recognize their internal talent they may not have realized they had.

Phoenix Center for the Arts Summer Camp 2017
Session 2 – Week 2, June 26-30
by Vritika Patni, Summer 2017 Camp Marketing Intern


Visual Arts

This week in Visual Arts with Miss Jessica, our campers explored printmaking and yarn painting. Miss Jessica hopes that the campers will be able to work with as many disciplines as possible, so, in addition to the mixed media collaging, air dry sculptures, and tempera paint marbling of last week, she wanted to add these two new activities to the list. For printmaking, the kids first cut the curved edges off a paper plate to attain a flat surface. Then, using a blunt pencil tip, carved they their design into styrofoam.

Justin, 9, carefully carves his name backwards into the paper plate, to ensure that the letters appear right side up on his final piece.

Next, campers applied a thin layer of paint to the surface of the plate, just enough to add color, but not so thick as to cover up the imprint of their design. They then pressed the plate onto paper. On the table, Miss Jessica had laid out bubble wrap and cardboard with rubber bands wrapped around them for textured stamps. The kids were then able to add these onto their existing pieces.

One of our campers in particular, Ella, created her own watermelon stamp by gluing a semicircle made of cardboard to a larger square of cardboard; she lined pink semicircles with neon green paint for the watermelon rind, and used the back of a paintbrush to finish her piece off with black seeds.

Ella admires her finished print.

As for the yarn painting activity, Miss Jessica began by explaining that the kids should center their picture around something abstract, as it would be harder to depict more detailed, realistic figures with the yarn. Our campers used oil pastels to create their design, and then had either Miss Jessica or a volunteer trace over their sketch with glue. Soon after, they began laying down the pieces of yarn on top of their design, using popsicle sticks to push the string into place. At first, this activity was frustrating for some of the campers, as they struggled with getting the yarn to cooperate and lay directly on top of the glue, but with patience they were able to get the hang of it.

Two campers collaborate on their yarn painting project.

For the remainder of the week, Miss Jessica will conduct a weaving activity and a collaborative painting. The kids will also create and decorate paper books to hold all of their artwork from these past two weeks.

The campers crowd around Miss Antoinette as she demonstrates how to assemble the mosaic.

With Miss Antoinette, our campers continued to piece together their mosaics. Each class period began with a quick review of what they learned in their previous lesson on color theory: what the different color schemes are, what differentiates them, etc. After making sure their sketch was approved by Miss Antoinette, each camper was given a bag filled with spray-painted rocks and gems to start building their picture.

Brainstorming ideas for their pieces.

A camper begins arranging the components of her picture.


The campers began by playing the game “Concentration,” in which the class went around the room listing different musical instruments and artists, with the goal of trying not to hesitate or repeat one another. For the majority of the week, the kids continued to perfect their performance piece, fixing minor details like figuring out starting and ending positions, making sure to face the audience, and cleanly and loudly articulating their individual parts. Between rehearsing their songs, the campers also played musical chairs and freeze dance.

A group of campers singing “Let it Go” from Frozen.


Like in music, this week’s focus was working on performances for the upcoming performance. Miss Stephanie first allowed the kids time to rehearse lyrics in small groups, and then went over the different songs, stanza by stanza. The campers practiced singing, first with the original song, and then with just the instrumental version, slowly associating the choreography with the words. A major breakthrough moment for this week was seeing our campers build up the confidence to sing loud enough in their smaller groups.

The kids rehearse the choreography to go along with their drama performance.


Following the campers’ usual warm up routine, Miss Michaela drilled through the choreography for each dance. She slowly went over the individual steps, performing along with the class, eventually having the kids perform without her assistance. In between rehearsing, the campers played “Four Corners” and “Statue,” in which the kids free dance and pose in “statues” of different figures, like superheroes or animals.

The campers stretch during their warmup routine, before getting into any choreography.

Phoenix Center for the Arts Summer Camp 2017
Session 2 – Week 1, June 19-23
by Vritika Patni, Summer 2017 Camp Marketing Intern


Visual Arts

With Miss Antoinette the campers were introduced to the project they will be working on over the next two weeks: a mosaic, with the theme for this session being color theory.

The kids will use spray-painted rocks, cardboard cutouts, glass (without the sharp edges), beads, and other recycled materials to depict practically anything they want. The one guideline for the project is to choose a color scheme for the piece, whether it be one based on primary colors, complementary colors, a triadic scheme, etc.

The campers will practice creating a composition, and using what they will soon learn about color theory to create a piece that is balanced and has a focus. Campers will also work on a collaborative mosaic, with a color scheme chosen by Miss Antoinette.

The finished pieces will be displayed on the last day of camp. In addition to their lesson on color theory, the campers were given time to free paint using watercolors.

During the second period of visual arts with Miss Jessica the kids explored mixed media and collaging. Miss Jessica laid out a bag with random magazine cutouts, along with markers, glue, and paper.

The campers got to choose a cutout, and were assigned to finish the picture; they added onto the existing cutout, but also created a background, added words, and personalized their pieces. This activity in particular was intended to encourage the campers to think outside the box, and be able to connect their magazine cutout to a completely different context. The campers also engaged in crafts, like creating and decorating popsicles out of felt for the summertime.


Campers started off the week by going around the room sharing which instruments they have played, and learned more about one another through the game “Two Truths and a Fib.”

The campers also voted on a musical/movie on which their final performance will be based. Mr. Israel began rehearsing song lyrics with the kids, as well as figuring out basic choreography. The campers were excited to play freeze dance while Mr. Israel accompanied on live piano.


Our campers began by playing a game to learn everyone’s name, and then engaged in a warm-up activity that consisted of stretching and Animal Freeze Tag.

The majority of class this week was spent learning dance basics, which will ease the kids into the choreography for their upcoming performance. The campers practiced simple ballet moves, like chasse (literally “to chase”) in which your back foot quickly follows after your front foot, leaps, grande battement (literally “big beat”), in which you extend your foot all the way up to your hips, and tuck jumps, using pompoms as guidelines.

Miss Michaela also began teaching the kids steps for their performance. Unlike the last session of camp in which the style of dance focused more on improvisation, this session will involve more structured choreography.


Miss Stephanie began the week by playing “Improv Tag.” Another favorite game of the campers included “Magic Potion,” where the kids pretended to drink a potion which transformed them into an animal, which their friends had to guess. Campers played a different game in which they pretended to walk on the moon, but had to act out different situations, like how they would react to being stuck in an ice cream storm, being trapped in peanut butter, etc. Both of these games encouraged the campers to be expressive of their emotions —skills that will be used in their final performance piece. Miss Stephanie planned for another exercise called, “What Would You Do,” as a way to get the kids thinking and improvising. The campers arranged themselves in a circle. One camper would then create a random situation beginning with “what would you do if…” and the next camper in the circle would respond, generating a different situation to continue the game.