SBCC sculpture class creates works of art in a supportive environment

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Nate Stephenson

Jessica Chalk makes final adjustments to her first sculpture for her Studio Art Foundations class with a flap disc grinder to “clean it up” before turning it in on Friday, March 12, 2020, behind the Humanities Building at City College in Santa Barbara, Calif. Chalk put 12 hours of work into her 9’ metal sculpture sculpture.

August Lawrence, Staff Writer

A brisk wind blew through the cavernous art studio showing rainwater over an outdoor industrial wood shaper and welding torch and all across the cement floor.

But despite the cold and wet conditions, Jessica Chalk and her classmates continued to create.

Chalk crouched in a corner wearing thick protective gloves and a fire retardant jacket with a welding mask completely covering her face; she was brandishing a blowtorch, laser-focused on curving and bending iron rods together.

City College’s sculpture classes are known for producing dedicated and confident studio artists possessing a wide knowledge of varied sculpting techniques.

Chalk has been working on creating organic, anatomical forms out of everyday objects. Her piece, if executed correctly, will come out looking like a mummy without the wrappings—a cage of a human form.

Just another typical day in the studio art class.

“It’s an interesting, fun class,” Chalk said while taking a break from welding. “[It] challenges you to look at things differently.”

She had been working on this piece for the past week or so, and is really looking forward to seeing the end product.

For Chalk, the crunch is on, the semester is coming to a close and portfolios will be due soon. This is the first Studio Art elective at City College that Chalk has ever taken. 

She needed a creative outlet in her life and the more traditional classes were not giving her any, so she signed up for City College’s Studio Arts course. 

Chalk knew that in order to survive a semester in college she would need at least one art elective.

There’s a reason she loves this class so much—it’s given her many mediums in which to express herself—and this kind of impact is exactly why Armando Ramos, head sculpture instructor and Studio Arts advisor, loves what he does.

“Students don’t need this equipment to be successful,” Ramos said about his art class. “Art taught me how to think tactically and gave me confidence in my abilities.”

Ramos hopes he can impact his students on a level deeper than simply showing how to hold a torch.

Will Laraway, a first-time art student, said this class has made him grow both artistically and emotionally. This class taught Laraway to methodically plan out his next move, not just jump into a project with no end goal in mind. 

Will Laraway mig welds a small metal sculpture for a complex undefined objects project for his sculpture class on Friday, March 12, 2020, behind the Humanities Building at City College in Santa Barbara, Calif. Students in the class learn wood and metal shop skills to use with their projects.
Nate Stephenson
Will Laraway mig welds a small metal sculpture for a complex undefined objects project for his sculpture class on Friday, March 12, 2020, behind the Humanities Building at City College in Santa Barbara, Calif. Students in the class learn wood and metal shop skills to use with their projects.

“[Assignments are] kinda confusing,” Laraway said. “But I approach it now on a whole different level.”

But inspiring his students isn’t all Ramos hopes he can achieve. 

“Developing their curiosity and confidence,” Ramos said. “I love that ‘wow, I did that?’ moment.”

Ramos teaches that dedication and planning are essential in order to succeed, for example, students are encouraged to book their own studio hours.

“I’ve had to set aside an entire day just to be here,” Chalk said. “But it’s worth it.”

And as the chill wind howls and the rain hits like bullets, the passionate students of the Studio Art classes continue to create.