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Despite the sky threatening rain, those who signed up for the Imagination Quotient workshop at Mattawoman Creek Art Center tromped outside to collect leaves to use as inspiration in their projects for the afternoon.

Imagination Quotient, a workshop conducted by Ingrid Swann, a former director of the North End Gallery in Leonardtown, is a smorgasbord of things, she said.

Art exercises determine how good a person’s cognitive memory is and may show artists new tricks and techniques to use in future projects, she said.

There is origami, watercolor, printing and sculpting.

Scratching lines (which will emerge as veins in a painting of a leaf) into a piece of paper and painting on top of them adds texture to a project, she said.

Carving a drawing — using a skewer or a thin paintbrush handle — into regular Styrofoam can be used as a stamp once paint is rolled over it.

Workshops like hers show people what they’re good at or may spark an interest in another art form, Swann said.

“It might entice them to do a workshop in an area,” she said.

The art center has several workshops planned for the summer.

Topics come from member suggestions, said Mary Kercher, the center’s workshop coordinator, and are funded through a Charles County Arts Alliance grant.

The fees for the workshops are kept low, said Mary-Agnes Swann, treasurer of the center’s board of directors, and have been turning a small profit for the center, which is operated by volunteers.

The center, founded in the late 1980s and nestled in Smallwood State Park in Marbury since the early 1990s, may be off the beaten path, but that is part of its appeal.

“It’s a place where people feel like you’re really away from [everything],” Kercher said. “It gets you in the mindset where you can forget about everything else but the art.”

Kercher’s granddaughter Rebecca added, “This is a great place, a quiet, mellow atmosphere.”

“We’re not on main street,” agreed Mary-Agnes Swann.

The center is in a converted farmhouse that is more than 100 years old, known as the Upham Place.

At one time owned by Charles Upham and his wife, the house overlooks the Mattawoman Creek and has two studios in the upper level that are rented out to artists.

The center started as an idea among area artists who wanted a place to showcase their work.

The Upham house was vacant and, in 1990, talks began with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the founders of the center, then called the Charles County Art Center, about refurbishing the Upham house, according to history provided by the center.

Mary-Agnes Swann said one county representative joked that the place, which had fallen into disrepair, should just be bulldozed.

But a lease was worked out with the natural resources department, and work began on converting the home into a gallery space that offers workshops to anyone with an interest in art.

In 1992, the center held its first show, said Newburg resident Swann, who isn’t an artist but started volunteering there after retiring.

The classroom space housed on the porch was upgraded about three years ago, Mary-Agnes Swann said.

It was an area that was being used for storage.

A shed, built by the Kiwanis Club of Waldorf for a Christmas in April project, allowed supplies to be shifted, freeing up the porch for classes held spring, summer and fall that vary from watercolor to jewelry making with sea glass to polymer clay workshops.

Other programs — financial organization and management for artists by financial planner Frank Nelson, Sunday movie screenings, and open studio time on Fridays — are meant to attract new members, maybe some younger artists, or at least get the word out, Mary-Agnes Swann said.

The classes aren’t just for those familiar with the arts.

Mary Alice Hessler of Clinton makes no bones about her lack of artistic talent.

“No, I’m not an artist,” she said “I’m not very creative, but I want to try. I think it’s like anything else. You have to work at it.”

Rebecca Kercher, who is on a break from her job on an Alaska fishing boat, is visiting family in Port Tobacco and has taken a couple of workshops this summer at the center.

In addition to the IQ class, she took the pastels workshop with Pat Spradlin.

“I enjoy art and spending time with my grandma,” she said. “It’s fun to work creatively and tap that part of your brain. You never know if you’re an artist if you don’t try.”

Express yourself

Mattawoman Creek Art Center holds art workshops during the summer. Upcoming sessions include Oriental painting, watercolor workshops, a sea-glass jewelry class, explorations in monotype and principles of polymer clay. Classes can be created if five or more people request a subject. For more information, call 301-743-5159 or go to