By Melissa Arnold
From as far back as the Middle Ages to the 19th century, the standard setting for art education and professional work was the atelier. At an atelier — which means “workshop” in French — a master artist would work in a studio setting alongside his students, rather than simply telling them what to do. The result was a collaborative community built on shared expertise and creativity.
In the 1940s, art classrooms built on a lecture-based dynamic became popular and the era of ateliers faded into history. But today, more artists are returning to the roots of their craft by starting and joining ateliers.
Here on Long Island, Kevin McEvoy is the artist-director of The Atelier at Flowerfield in St. James. The space is home to an art studio, a 2,000-square-foot exhibition space titled Atelier Hall and even a developing library of fine art books.
Beginning this week and continuing throughout the summer, Atelier Hall will display its annual Masterworks collection, an exhibit showcasing the works of nine gifted artists from around the world.
“The Masterworks exhibit is the crystallization of dreams I’ve had for more than a decade to take our Long Island community, which has so much momentum, and marry it to the international art community, to put them all in the same room and celebrate the work they do,” said McEvoy in a recent interview.
The journey to opening an atelier was a long one for the 38-year-old artist, who has traveled the world to hone his artistic talents. A first-generation American, he spent time as a boy living in Ireland, where his father was raised. After studying studio art at Stony Brook University, he headed to Santiago, Chile, and Florence, Italy, where he joined the prestigious Charles H. Cecil Studios.
The time abroad allowed McEvoy to cross paths with a diverse group of artists from around the world, nestled in a community where he continued to learn and grow.
By the time he returned to the States, McEvoy was married with young children and his career was taking off. But he found himself aching for something more — a social and professional circle like the one he left overseas. He began to teach at different places on Long Island in hopes of making new connections, and the rest is history.
“As soon as I plugged into teaching, this community was born and it was such a breath of fresh air,” McEvoy recalled. “Many of my students were very serious painters, and to share ideas and fan those latent gifts into flame meant so much to me. I knew then that I wanted to start an atelier.”
The Atelier at Flowerfield officially opened in the spring of 2016. As his classes grew, McEvoy knew he needed help. He began to reach out to friends in different parts of the country and overseas, offering to put them up while they taught workshops at his studio.
“In the past, there were all of these artists I knew, but couldn’t work with because of a lack of infrastructure. And now they were able to come in regularly to stay,” McEvoy said.
The Atelier now boasts more than 120 artists who come to lecture, create and learn. Among them is Leo Mancini-Hresko, who regularly makes trips from his home near Boston to give workshops on oil painting and materials.
Mancini-Hresko is a graduate and former principal instructor of The Florence Academy of Art whose paintings of New England and his travels abroad have appeared in exhibits across the globe. He and McEvoy got to know each other while living in Florence.
“Many of us [who met in Florence] were not really art teachers. We’re professional artists with careers who happen to teach occasionally, and I think that’s part of the attraction, to learn from someone who considers themselves an artist first,” Mancini-Hresko said.
Lana Ballot of Lake Grove continues to find a wealth of inspiration in Long Island’s natural scenery. She grew up in a small town in Russia where an art education wasn’t easily accessible. She studied foreign languages instead, and when she arrived in the U.S. in 1994, pursued a degree in studio art at Stony Brook University.
Ballot worked in web design for more than 15 years, but the desire to paint never faded. She eventually began freelance work, then full-time painting and teaching. Today, she teaches an ongoing pastel class at The Atelier. “It’s really like a family here,” she said of The Atelier.
“Kevin says a lot that he wants to create a community, and that’s what is happening. It’s not just us coming in, teaching a class and going home. We interact, and as working artists we are connecting to one another and continuously learning.”
Masterworks 2019 will feature 31 two-dimensional works, including still lifes, landscapes, interiors, figures and portraits painted predominantly in oil, as well as charcoal and pastel. The show also boasts a collection of sculpture pieces by notable local artist Gwen Marcus, who will present several full life bronze cast figurative pieces. McEvoy will display his own bronze sculpture of his grandfather, Bill McEvoy. The inclusion of life-size sculpture in the Masterworks exhibition also highlights the introduction of The Atelier’s first sculpture program set to begin this summer.
• Lana Ballot
• James Beihl
• Megan Euell
• Bill Graf
• Wendy Jensen
• Leo Mancini-Hresko
• Gwen Marcus
• Kevin McEvoy
• David Shevlino
The Atelier at Flowerfield, located at 2 Flowerfield, Suite 15, St. James will present Masterworks 2019 from May 16 through Aug. 30. The gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and admission is free. Join the artists for an opening reception on Thursday, May 16 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Enjoy live demonstrations by Atelier instructors and fellows during the event. Prosecco and hors d’oeuvres will be served. For more information, call 631-250-9009 or visit www.atelierflowerfield.org.
All images courtesy of The Atelier at Flowerfield