Thursday, March 5, 2009

Montgomery College

Painting teacher Ed Ahlstrom of Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland had to solve a problem: How do you manage a workroom full of more than 20 student easels?

People were tripping on them, and the heavy easels were falling over and hitting other students on the head.

He invested in a number of aluminum Stanrite easels, which are light enough to pick up with one hand. He attached a hook to the top of each easel. Then he built a storage frame in the corner of the room with a long bar where all the easels could hang together out of the way. The rack is visible behind us.

Palettes were also a problem. How do you store dozens of fully-loaded palettes? He built a special storage cabinet with slots for the rectangular plate-glass palettes. Each student writes his or her name on a piece of tape on the edge of their palette, which then slides into a numbered slot.

Taped beneath each glass palette was a gray piece of paper with a pre-printed gray scale and circles to guide the placement of the paints.

A fireproof cabinet houses the brush washers, another invention of Professor Ahlstrom. The students make the brush washers themselves out of coffee cans with lids.

At the bottom of each coffee can is a brush-scrubber made out of a 5-inch-square piece of ¼ inch gauge hardware cloth. A 1.25 inch notch is cut out of each corner so that the flaps can be folded down.

During the warm weather months, Mr. Ahlberg takes his students outdoors to paint en plein air. “We go from sunny greens to the dusty tones of autumn,” he said. Mr. Ahlstrom himself paints outdoors nearly year round (below), enjoying the colors of December in this work "Strawberry Field."

The art department has a fully-equipped jewelry shop and a graphic arts lab. “We’re one of the few schools that teaches stone lithography,” he said.

A separate building houses the communications arts department. Illustration department chairperson Martha Vaughan showed us the gallery, the computer rooms, and a room full of drawing tables.

Montgomery is a community college art program, with many hard-working commuter students who often hold down other jobs. It’s a two-year program; the students move on to many of the other art schools that have been profiled on GurneyJourney.

Montgomery College gives them a good grounding in traditional skills, and vital contact with art mentors who equip them with practical knowledge that they can use in their life work.
Ed Ahlstrom’s website, link.

Art Department – Rockville, link.

Martha Vaughan's Communications Arts Technologies Department, Rockville, link.


Tracy Flynn Art said...

we used that same kind of brush cleaning can at the Atlanta College of Art back in the mid 80's.....I stilluse it today

Oliraptor said...

I wish i still went to that Montgomery X]
but MICA is great! stop by sometime!
Have always loved your Dinos

Jo said...

Oh fantastic! The easels at the University of Waterloo are massive, made out of 2x6's and almost impossible to orient in a classroom.

Unknown said...

This post flies in the face of my theory, that messiness and creativity go hand in hand:

Seriously though, even the messiest of us find ourselves coming up with systems like this teacher to keep organized. His is quite impressive!

Kelly Sullivan said...

Our college uses the same room for all the drawing, painting, and life drawing classes and there are easels all over the place. If I had a penny for how many times our instructor tripped over something, I'd be a millionaire.
Alhstrom's solution to his workspace problem is incredibly smart and creative (no way!).
Though I've had problems with those storage cabinets...they absolutely refuse to close!

Anonymous said...

Scrubbing brushes on wire gauze?
Isn't that rather harsh on the brush?

Ginger*:) said...

Thanks so much for the tour and all the links and the great suggestions to make life easier for art students and artists alike.

Lynn Yang said...

That was my painting teacher!