TASI tenants open new season with annual showcase
Story by Andy Coughlan
“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, sweat and tears.”
These famous words by Winston Churchill could apply to The Art Studio’s tenants. OK, not the blood. Nor, perhaps, the tears. But certainly the sweat, as they toil in preparation for September’s season-opening exhibition.
“Earthly Delights,” the annual Tenants Show opens Sept. 6 with a free reception, and runs through Sept. 26. The show features work by more than 20 artists who work in a variety of disciplines.
Among the artists showing in the exhibition for the first time is the youngest tenant, 13-year-old John Alexander. The Marshall Middle schooler has been working in clay since he took classes from Studio founder Greg Busceme three years ago. He was instantly hooked.
“I committed to it — I was determined to do it,” he said. “I really love the pottery — the whole process of making pots on the wheel.”
Alexander said that The Art Studio offers him a chance not only to work on his skills, but also to draw inspiration from the other artists who work there.
“I like the culture and the fact that we have all these great artists around us to give us inspiration,” he said.
Alexander said he wants to do ceramics alongside whatever career he chooses, but he wants it to be his job when he retires — he’s certainly got long-term goals. As far as a career, he is looking at something in engineering, he said.
“Some of it has to do with the kiln, in fact,” he said. “They have combustion engineers. You have to know a lot about the kiln and what is efficient, and the proper combustion of fuel, things like that.”
Alexander is actually building a kiln at The Studio at the moment.
“I am very grateful to have the opportunity to build a kiln at 13,” he said.
Despite his age, Alexander is at The Studio almost every day during the school holidays and two or three times a week during the semesters. His father Scott is normally found quietly reading or doing paperwork in the corner.
John thinks deeply about his work.
“It’s not just another piece,” he said. “The glazes, the shapes, the forms — it’s unique.”
Artist Gina Garcia has been a tenant for about six months. Like Alexander, she said The Studio offers more than just a place to work.
“I like having a place that I can work freely,” she said, “ and it’s good to have other people around that I can bounce ideas off of and ask questions.”
Garcia said she encourages visitors to attend the show to get a feel for the work being produced by the tenants.
“Any kind of visually stimulating thing you can think of will be on our walls or on a pedestal, so you want to come out,” she said. “We have a wonderful group of artists, and we have so many different types of work.”
Maurice Abelman is another making his Tenant Show debut, having been at TASI for six months. He graduated from Lamar with an MA in Printmaking in May. When he was looking for a place to work, The Studio seemed like the obvious choice.
“It’s probably the central hub here in Beaumont for the arts and I wanted to be around like-minded artists and part of the community,” he said.
Abelman said he also draws inspiration from the other tenants.
“Just seeing other people work inspires me to work, too — it’s just being part of everything,” he said. “You can’t really do that when you are alone. Sometimes the seclusion drives you mad.”
Like many of the artists who have day jobs, Abelman says his hours at The Studio fluctuate.
“I have been bouncing back and forth between here and my house,” he says. “Whenever I was intense into my thesis I was here a lot working on my woodblocks. Since I graduated I haven’t been up here as much as I want to.”
Abelman said the Tenants Show is a great opportunity to see the work that Studio artists are working on. This is his first Tenants Show and he said that he is both a little nervous and also really looking forward to it.
“I want to be part of everything and see if I hold my own with everyone,” he said.
Abelman’s work is often complex, but he has a simple philosophy.
“Just keep on making artwork and the rest will sort itself out,” he said.
Also making his Tenant Show debut is David Granitz. He has been a tenant for about six months this go around, although he said he has been a tenant for more than two years over the past few years. He said that The Studio is a community and that working around others, such as full-time painter Abigail McLaurin, who also happens to be his girlfriend, is a great motivator.
“Working next to Abbie can be a struggle sometimes, because it makes me feel like I am not working enough, so it’s motivation,” he said. “To have another artist working, you definitely get a lot of motivation.
“But the facilities are a huge advantage, too. Without money, being pretty poor, this (space) is something I definitely wouldn’t be able to get a hold of without The Art Studio. You don’t have to worry about getting stuff on the floor. I like working at home, but it’s just too much of a mess. Until I have my own studio, this is about as good as it gets.”
Gravitz said that The Studio is more than just an artist’s space.
“It stands for Beaumont,” he said. “The Art Studio is a great symbol for Beaumont community, I have always felt that. A lot of people have doubts about Beaumont, but when you come and you see there’s a thriving artistic community that’s producing some really quality work, it’s inspirational — not only for the artists in the community, but people in general who need a creative spark.”
Other tenants include Barbara Allamon, Dana Dorman, Karen Dumesnil, Beau Dumesnil, Cynthia Grimes, Rhonda Rodman, Sandra Laurette, Suzanne Garrett, Rhonda McNally, Sue Wright, Andy Coughlan, Varley Bruce, Elizabeth Fontenot, Stephen Scales, Nathan Jones and Marcie Morgan. Intermediate tenants include Kailee Viator, Lisa Baumer, Joe Winston and random photographers who use the facility’s darkroom.
The exhibition will include painting, ceramics, sculpture, mixed media and photography.
The Art Studio is located at 720 Franklin in downtown Beaumont.
For information, call 409-838-5393 or visit www.artstudio.org.