Courier News: RVCC alumni share camaraderie, love for art in guild
Published 8:00 a.m. ET Dec. 11, 2018
They enrolled in Raritan Valley Community College’s ceramics classes for different reasons, but they found a shared passion for art and friendship that has lasted for decades.
The 16 members of the New Jersey Artists’ Guild – all of whom studied ceramics with RVCC Professor Ann Tsubota – get together bimonthly to share their work, discuss art, have lunch and draw inspiration from one another. The group was formed in 1995 by five RVCC students looking to share ideas outside of class. Members may join only by invitation.
At a recent meeting at Doris Aufschlager’s Bernardsville home, the artists displayed their creations and talked about why they first signed up for a ceramics class at RVCC.
Sande Benscoter of Somerville, one of the Guild’s original members, took a variety of classes at RVCC after her son’s recovery from a motorcycle accident in the late 1980s. At a friend’s suggestion, she enrolled in a ceramics class and then continued doing so for several years. “From there it was like an adrenaline; it takes over your life,” she quipped.
Working as an operating room nurse in New York several years ago, Sheila Coutin of Sergeantsville enrolled in a variety of classes to relieve stress – from French conversation, to wood working, to macramé, to pottery. After retirement, she turned to ceramics and took a class with Tsubota. “Ann really gave me inspiration…and encouragement,” Coutin said. “My pottery was night and day after studying with Ann.” She joined the NJ Artists’ Guild over 15 years ago.
Pat Mase of Raritan, another original Guild member, worked as a garden designer at Duke Gardens for 25 years. After earning an associate degree in Liberal Arts from the College (then known as Somerset County College) in 1984, she came back to RVCC to study art and the experience “saved my life. I just fell in love with it.”
Val Bolan followed a similar path and returned to the College, where she first received a Computer Science degree, to study graphic design. After taking several art courses she was told, “they’re having a lot of fun in the ceramics classes.” Once her hands touched the clay, she “kind of got stuck.” Still studying ceramics with Tsubota, the Bridgewater resident recently was awarded “Best in Show” (Overall) in RVCC’s Juried Student Art Show for her piece, “Mountain on Fire.” She joined the Guild in about 2005.
Vicki Pollack of Montclair, who took classes for years at RVCC, praised the community of artists she has met at the College. She also has enjoyed studying ceramics with people of various ages. “It’s wonderful being in classes with younger students,” said Pollack, a Guild member for only a few years. The experience helps one gain “a different vision,” she said, adding that the younger students sometimes look to their older classmates for guidance.
The Guild members have benefited from the guidance of their RVCC professor. “This group wouldn’t exist without Ann Tsubota’s influence,” said Aufschlager, a lifelong artist who joined the Guild about 10 years ago and began studying ceramics at RVCC in 2004. Tsubota has been teaching fulltime at the College since 1979.
“I think she is a marvelous teacher,” added Mase, noting that Tsubota also encourages her students to show their artwork. For several years the Guild presented Variations, a biannual exhibition and sale of artwork, at various locations.
In the end, the bimonthly gatherings are as much about the camaraderie – and the food – as the art. “I love coming to the meetings. I enjoy the group very much,” said Coutin. “We get a lot of inspiration from each other.”