Young artists learn lessons at the Five Points summer art lab in Torrington

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TORRINGTON — In a quiet classroom at the Five Points Center for the Visual Arts, a group of teenagers bend over their work, using brushes dipped in graphite and sharpened pencils to create a still life scene.

Inside the circle of small tables, a collection of objects – a coffee pot, a birdcage, a vintage typewriter, glasses, bowls and other items – caught the attention of the group. Each child’s work reflected their interpretation on sheets of white paper. Teacher Mari Skarp, a local artist and instructor, with the help of Sydney Samele and Kai Kai Mussulin, went from table to table, talking softly to the students concentrating on their work.


This week marked the first of its art center summer art labs, open to ages 13 to 17, with classes in drawing, painting, printmaking and photography. The next session begins on July 18; places for this session, as well as the other courses offered in July and August, are open for registration.

The center is coming to life, one class and one event at a time. The Northwest CT Chamber of Commerce held its celebration of success in the field a few weeks ago. An outdoor sculpture exhibit has been installed, and the staff are also busy with downtown galleries, bringing in new shows every month.

The Five Points Center for the Visual Arts opened to the public in 2020 in the former home of UConn Torrington on University Drive. Since purchasing the 90-acre property from the University of Connecticut in July of that year, Five Points executive director Judy McElhone has worked alongside gallery curator Karl Goulet and board members of Directors Marcia Furman, Bill Haygood, Facilities Manager, Project Manager Pam MCann, Center Administrator Noel Croce and her husband, IT Manager Marc Croce, and Librarian and City Council Member Sharon Waagner.

The building has been renovated and former classrooms and meeting spaces have been converted into studios for painting, graphic design, digital and film photography and printmaking.

The equipment, much of it donated by loyal supporters of the Five Points Gallery and Annex on downtown Water and Main streets, is in place to provide students and working artists with a place to do their work.

Tuesday’s students included four Riley siblings – twin brothers James and Jack, Thomas and sister Vivian, all from Torrington – as well as Felix Brunello from Southwick, Mass., Hannah Valdespino from Winsted and Elsa Gianfagna from Litchfield.

Hannah and Elsa, both 14, want to study art at university. Both girls said the arts center was “pretty cool.”

“It’s good here,” said Elsa. “I love drawing and painting the most. We worked outside yesterday and it was fun.

The Riley brothers also appreciated the class. James, who will start eighth grade in the fall, said he took the class to have fun. “It seems like everything is really new inside here,” Thomas said, adding that he draws a lot and loves animation.

Skarp, who teaches drawing, painting and sculpture at local universities and colleges, has known McElhone for many years. “We have amazing teachers here, and so many people have helped make this place work,” she said. “Spreading creativity is one of the greatest feelings in the world.”

The art center also offers courses and activities for adults: free drawing every Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. until August; a “visible mending” fiber weaving class on July 21; Drawing from life July 23; and Engraving and mezzotint printing on July 30 and 31. Youth classes also continue with Introduction to Origami Ripples on July 30 and Exploring Abstraction for Teens on August 5.

The programs are supported by grants from the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation and the Edward W. Diskavich Fund. Scholarships are also available from the Donald A. Pels Charitable Trust; email [email protected] to find out how to apply.

The second Summer Art Lab begins July 18, with painting from 9 a.m. to noon and photography from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Students can register at www.fivepointsarts.org. For more information, contact Jenni Freidman, Director of Education, at [email protected]

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