`More exciting than I could have imagined'

HCC's new 3-D arts, gallery chief jumps in with zest, ideas

August 25, 2006|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,sun reporter

From helping beginners shape their first lumps of clay to organizing displays of work by internationally renowned artists, Rebecca Bafford's new role at Howard Community College will nurture a wide spectrum of artistic ability.

After 12 years as director of Columbia Art Center, Bafford accepted a position as an associate professor at the college this month. She will coordinate the ceramics and sculpture areas for the visual arts department and serve as director for the professional gallery in the newly opened Peter and Elizabeth Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center.

"It's daunting and overwhelming and more exciting than I could have imagined," said Bafford of her charge to design an educational program and new gallery procedures "from scratch."

The new art gallery - which has been named for its benefactor, the Rouse Company Foundation - gives the college an opportunity to hold larger-scale, museum-quality shows, Bafford said. Elements such as professional-quality lighting, precise temperature and humidity controls, security and hanging space make it possible to play host for traveling exhibits in addition to showcasing local artists.

The first exhibit in the new gallery will be a faculty show that opens next month. After that, Bafford plans to display rare works from the Soviet Realist period that will be on loan from the Horowitz's private collection. The college will bring a traveling show of work by French sculptor Auguste Rodin to the gallery in winter 2007.

"We have the ability to bring in a whole different caliber of shows," Bafford said.

A curved wall in the gallery is her favorite part of the new space, she said.

"It gives the feeling of infinity," she said. "It creates for me this endless space. It's very exciting. ... It's a challenge to understand how to place works [on the wall] in the best possible way."

The art gallery in the Administration Building will be moved across a hallway and renovated in the coming months. Re-named the Thomas Akins Student/Alumni Art Gallery after another donor, that space will continue to show work by students and community members and can be used in conjunction with the new gallery for very large shows.

The Horowitz Center's ceramics studio features open space, lots of light and room for 10 potter's wheels and two kilns. Another spacious room is set aside for sculpture classes and soon will have woodworking equipment.

Bafford earned a master's degree in ceramics at George Washington University and has managed the ceramics studio at that school and the one at Columbia Art Center.

She said she has missed making art and wants to explore that more fully with the new teaching opportunity.

She said she will start by offering classes that focus on using a wheel, and she would like to offer more advanced ceramics techniques. She is also planning more classes in three-dimensional art, design and sculpture, as well as a gallery-management class.

Bafford said she plans to collaborate with Columbia Art Center to hold joint workshops and promote each other's classes.

"I truly loved it," she said of the center. "It was an opportunity to learn arts administration, which was a huge gift. It just seemed time to explore a new area."

James Adkins, HCC's director of visual arts, said Bafford was a great fit for her new job because she has been an adjunct teacher at the college, and her ceramics and gallery experience "combined two things we drastically needed."

Adkins also praised her "sense of community spirit" and her ties to artists in Howard County, Baltimore and Washington. He said that at HCC "she will continue to provide the same service to the community."

Liz Henzey, who has worked at Columbia Art Center for 14 years, including seven as assistant director, has been named its new director.

Henzey said she would like to continue Bafford's efforts to join with other arts and community organizations and continue her use of themed exhibits to bring in a variety of different artists and appeal to new audiences.

"Some of my vision for the direction of the center includes expanding programs for children and teens in the area," Henzey said. She also said she would like to offer more workshops for adults who may not be able to commit to a six- or eight-week class.

Bafford said she hopes HCC's new facilities will give everyone in the arts community a boost.

"I think it will be a way to take ceramics, sculpture, gallery shows to a new level in the area. We will be sharing more shows, sharing more workshops," she said. "The visibility this new building brings will help ... to promote all the arts."


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