JP workshop offers artists space, classes

November 22, 2013
By

BROOKSIDE—The Stonybrook Fine Arts (SFA) workshop is a resource to learn and develop skills in metalwork, sculpting and jewelry-making. The small workshop tucked next to the Samuel Adams brewery at 24 Porter St. in Jamaica Plain provides classes, workshops, commissions and open studios, among other services.

“Our mission is to expose people to the arts,” said Anne Sasser, SFA’s managing partner along with Morris Norvin.

A recent Gazette visit found a cozy space filled with projects either completed or in process: a bust of President Obama made out of horseshoes, a figurine of Miley Cyrus in her longer-hair era, and small figures of turtles.

Norvin and Sasser can be found planning upcoming events and making figures out of plasticene, among many other materials, when they’re not teaching classes. With education from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA), both are mentors to all involved with SFA. Norvin, who also teaches sculpture at the Museum of Fine Arts, studied under master Ralph Rosenthal, who taught sculpting classes for decades.

Joining them in running SFA is Benjamin Todd, the shop tech manager at SFA, who was educated at MassArt and MIT.

Sasser was the founder of Diablo Glass School in Mission Hill, and that’s where the trio met. They purchased the building for Stonybrook Fine Arts in 2004, but it took two-and-a-half years to build and prepare for what it is now. The duo had to pour a concrete floor, re-build walls, and break out windows that were previously bricked over.

“Ben and I essentially built the building ourselves,” said Norvin as he worked in the eye details of a small head he was making out of plasticene.

At SFA, students and artists can use the facilities for bronze and aluminum casting, as well as sand-casting. Students learn to make almost everything by themselves, including the molds, and pour the liquid substances themselves.

“This helps people understand why it costs so much when they send their molds out to be poured, because they see how much work goes into just one piece,” said Norvin.

SFA gets many novices in their workshops, and the staff is very willing to teach and help interested neighbors to learn about metalworking and sculpture.

“We get people in here for events like birthday parties when they come in, play with fire for a few hours, and have a fun time,” said Norvin.

One of the more popular services is the wedding ring workshop, which is offered on weekends. Couples can come in and work with instructors on their design and eventually cast their own final creation.

Other events include team-building events. Recently, a company called Custommade.com, an online marketplace that connects buyers to artisans, came in for a ring-making workshop to get a better idea of how the rings they are selling are actually made.

But SFA is also a resource for existing artists who want to develop their craft and have space to themselves. The 10 artist studios at SFA, which are always full and frequently have waiting lists, are available 24 hours a day, “so they can come in whenever the urge strikes them,” said Sasser. Space is rented out to a variety of artists, from painters to sculptors.

Internships are available for high school and college students in the area and offer class credit and access to the facilities in exchange for help. SFA also offers a teen program in the summer.

The group works closely with a nonprofit scholarship program called CASTBoston that offers art education to people who can’t afford it.

“We wanted to show people that they have options, and can find rewarding work using the facilities we provide and the art that we produce,” said Sasser.

The group raises funds that people can apply for and use towards a class or workshop. Before the partnership, for example, Uxbridge Middle School wanted to make a turtle figure for anti-bullying awareness, and it took over a year to raise the money to be able to do so. SFA wanted to help with that process.

For more information, see stonybrookfinearts.com.

Corrected version: A previous version of this story gave an incorrect spelling of Ralph Rosenthal’s name and an incorrect location for where Morris Norvin teaches.

Sculptures stand outside Stonybrook Fine Arts. (Gazette Photo by Emily Resnevic)

Sculptures stand outside Stonybrook Fine Arts. (Gazette Photo by Emily Resnevic)

(from left) Managing partners Anne Sasser and Morris Norvin pose inside Stonybrook Fine Arts. (Gazette Photo by Emily Resnevic)

(from left) Managing partners Anne Sasser and Morris Norvin pose inside Stonybrook Fine Arts. (Gazette Photo by Emily Resnevic)