Students in Huntington Community Center’s most popular art class don’t listen to lectures, pose models or draw bowls of fruit.
Instead, the group of about a dozen Bowie-area children spend every Monday night sprawling on floors, playing games and depicting scenes or creatures from their imaginations.
Fantasy Art began as a free class for 10 to 17-year-olds at the Bowie community center this year and will be transforming into an art club in the fall, which will most likely also be free, said Samantha Walker, the center’s art teacher.
Walker said the class’ unconventional format was designed to create an environment where students could express themselves freely while still learning art concepts.
“It’s really based on imagination,” she said. “There’s not a lot of drawing from still life or anything like that. It’s more like creating imaginary creatures or creating board games.”
In addition to drawing imaginative content, Fantasy Art students participate in creative exercises like drawing with the opposite hand, drawing upside down or making an image out of a squiggly line, Walker said.
Victoria Hite, 13 of Glenn Dale, said she has taken other art classes, but none quite like Fantasy Art.
“In this [class] we actually draw stuff and work on sketching, shading and putting emotion into it. In other [classes] it was pretty lame,” she said. “I really enjoy it and it helps me get better at it and free-hand instead of using tools and stuff.”
One popular activity at the class is “Animal Mashup,” where students draw a picture of two different animals combined into one, she said. Walker said it was this activity that inspired her to create the class.
“It really changed my mind about art. That’s really why I wanted to do this,” she said. “I guess I was always kind of always forced to do art the technical way where you draw what you see and you learn how to make things precise, and I didn’t like that. This [class] makes it fun. I think that’s why [the students] respond to it so well.”
The success of the art class came as a bit of a surprise to Huntington staff, said John Shepherd, director of the center.
“We put it out there and we had no idea what kind of response we would get,” he said. “It filled up in a matter of weeks and we were shocked.”
Walker said she was pleased by the popularity of the class and the students’ response to the non-traditional format.
“It was the most kids we’ve had in a class in a really long time,” she said. “We filled up the entire class and we still had some overflow.”
Dominic Harold, 12 of Mitchellville, said one of his favorite projects involved drawing an animal head and making the animal’s body out of a bendy straw.
“I never drew like that before. I never even knew I could draw like that before and it’s really cool how you can take the simplest of things and make it into something that no one’s ever seen before,” he said. “I always thought about doing it the same — like everybody else was doing it — but it’s okay to be different sometimes, because different stuff like this can be extraordinary in the end.”