Art is cool: new art school aims to grow the arts in Hadley 

  • Kasey Kellogg, 10, of Montague, works on a drawing in Lillian Weir's new art school called, Arts School, Because Art’s Cool, in Hadley. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Lillian Weir works with Maddy Olanyk, 5, of Shutesbury, an art student in Weir’s new school called, Arts School. Because Art’s Cool, in Hadley. Top, Kasey Kellogg, 10, of Montague, works on a drawing. STAFF PHOTOS/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Mia Robert,11, of Northfield, works on a drawing in Lillian Weir's new art school called, Arts School, Because Art’s Cool, in Hadley. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Lillian Weir works with left, Teagan Barry, 13, of Hadley, and Brooke Rochon, of Hadley, both art students in Weir's new school called, Arts School, Because Art’s Cool, in Hadley. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Lillian Weir works with Maddy Olanyk, 5, of Shutesbury, an art student in Weir's new school called, Arts School, Because Art’s Cool, in Hadley. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Brooke Rochon, works on a drawing in Lillian Weir's new art school called, Arts School, Because Art’s Cool, in Hadley. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Maggie Potter, 11, of Hadley works on a drawing in Lillian Weir's new art school called, Arts School, Because Art’s Cool, in Hadley. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/17/2018 11:50:05 PM

HADLEY — Understanding that many children, and even adults, are intimidated by the prospect of making art, Hadley artist Lillian Weir hopes her new school can be a place where people will express themselves in a welcoming environment.

At the school — Arts School. Because Art’s Cool — Weir is leading classes that give participants an opportunity to learn how to create illustrations, paintings and mixed-media artwork, and discover ways for art to be liberating.

“The whole idea of the school is I just want art to be creative and fun,” Weir said. “I don’t want them to be too serious about art.”

With brightly colored walls, including one featuring a mural with the school’s name written in a large cloud overlooking a barn that reflects its location in an agricultural community, the art school is located in an office building at 8 Goffe St., just off Route 9 near Hadley center and in close proximity to both Hopkins Academy and Hadley Elementary School.

Weir, who is pursuing a degree in art management and creative expression at the University of Massachusetts, has previously instructed children and is now doing so in a more formal setting.

On a recent afternoon, a number of children, ranging in age from 5 to 13 and who had just gotten out of school, dropped in to hone their skills in an art doodling class.

Keira Cunniffe and Rose Collins, both 9-year-olds from Amherst, created drawings of an ice cream cone and a flower, respectively.

Although it was the first time Keira had come to the new art school, she said she has liked how “Miss Lillian” teaches students how to use materials and gives them independence to create art on their own.

“She’s shown us how to do it ourselves and techniques of how to make it look better,” Keira said.

At another table, Kasey Kellogg, 10, of Montague, was drawing raptors with a pencil and observed that more practice is making her a better artist. “It’s really helpful,” Kasey said.

Next to her, Mia Robert, an 11-year-old from Northfield, put the finishing touches on an illustration of an alien being. “I really like it,” Mia said of the doodling class.

Weir wants to give students freedom to make their own art, but also help them when they have questions. One girl asked Weir how to illustrate a stage, and Weir took a pencil to create a stage curtain. Another girl was assisted in tracing a flower design free hand.

While a large space in the school is for classes, there is also a room dedicated to birthday parties and another that will be used for “sip and paint” adult art events. Weir said she is also having what she describe as Parent Date Night Out opportunities, which allows parents to drop off children for a night of art while the parents enjoy an evening to themselves.

Prior to starting the school, Weir owned a mural-painting business and worked in interior design and visual merchandising at Yankee Candle and Chap de Laine’s Furniture. She also was an independent craft writer for Disney’s Family Fun Magazine.

When Weir began contemplating the idea of a school, she spoke to property owner Ray Shipman and liked that the property was close to the town’s public schools, and The Quarters, a restaurant and bar with vintage video arcade.

She is confident her enterprise can put Hadley on the arts map, noting that both Northampton and Amherst have several art galleries and places to display art, while there are few in Hadley.

“The thought that Ray and I both have is is to get more art going, to get more art into Hadley,” Weir said. “I think Hadley needs this.”

Eventually, the lobby area of the building could have rotating exhibits.

The next classes begin Sept. 24 with Kids Art, a six-week course that will run three times per week from 4 to 5 p.m., and Storytime with a Craft that will be held Wednesdays at 8 a.m.

She is hoping to partner with other artists for programs that will appeal to children and adults, including paint your pet, make your own Halloween costume, floral design, art journaling and knitting and crocheting.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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