Art every day

Speer Art Academy students gain aesthetic appreciation—and hands-on skills—as they prepare for their first show

A Speer Art Academy student uses the pottery wheel.

A Speer Art Academy student uses the pottery wheel.

Photo By David Robert

When a class ended at 3 p.m. one Saturday, Speer Art Academy owner Nancy Speer headed to her desk to finish a little paperwork. Lost in her work, she suddenly realized it was 6 p.m. and got ready to leave. But when she flicked the light switch, a voice from the back room signaled that someone else at the academy had been lost in her work too. An adult student had stayed three extra hours working quietly on an art project she just couldn’t put down.

This kind of fascination with art, and the comfortable environment that allows students to lose themselves in the art, is just what Speer had in mind when she opened her academy in Shopper’s Square about two years ago.

“I don’t really view this as a job. I view it as a lifestyle, and I view it as a social responsibility,” Speer says. “It creates more of a whole human, in that everything around us … we’re not just walking through life. We’re actually appreciating life and we’re appreciating our everyday things, whether it’s the cup that we’re drinking our coffee out of or a walk through the museum, seeing some brilliant master’s painting.”

From the mundane to the magnificent, you can learn just about anything at Speer Art Academy. Drawing, painting, pottery, mask-making, cartooning and glass fusion are just a handful of the genres that Speer’s students explore. All artworks are created totally from scratch, from stretching and priming canvases to mixing colors.

And now, Speer’s students will learn what it’s like to be in the public eye when Promenade on the River, 525 Court St., hosts the academy’s first show. About 40 students, from pre-school age to adult, will have works on display beginning with a reception at 2 p.m. April 14. The show will run for at least three weeks, Speer says.

“It’ll be a nice variety,” she says. “I’m going to try to show a little bit of everything that they’ve done in the last year.”

Other projects in the works for Speer Art Academy include outreach programs to public schools and other organizations. Speer herself has 20 years of experience in art and education, and now she’s training an assistant, Cyndee Hutchison, to follow in her footsteps.

“One of Speer Art Academy’s goals is to create programs that are designed to succeed," Speer says. "In other words, going out into the schools and teaching the teachers how to teach—designing a program that will survive whether Speer comes in or not."