By Sarah Lipton When you walk into the art room at the Montpelier Senior Activity Center, you are welcomed by a pleasant environment focused on connection, curiosity, and creativity. Students of all artistic skill levels have gathered to dive into learning with locally renowned teacher Janice Walrafen. Walrafen teaches three classes at the senior center: “Drawing Basics,” “Drawing Nature” (which will resume in the spring semester starting April 4), and “Handbuilding with Clay.” Drawing Basics is a refreshing art class that asks students: have you always wanted to draw, but not known where to begin? Do you love to draw, but need to set time aside to do it? Most often working from life, each class introduces a different skill or lens to draw from including contour, value, color, perspective, foreshortening, portraits, proportions, composition, and more. The groups blend together and Walrafen directs the class with different techniques. Everyone has different skill levels, some have been drawing their whole lives, others not since high school. “It is so interesting to see people drawing the same object because you can see how we all see it differently,” says Bob Barrett, repeat student in the class. “If someone says to you, draw an apple, you think you know what an apple looks like. But that’s an entirely different thing than truly seeing the apple in front of you and trying to capture that,” Barrett continues.“‘Draw what you see, not what you think,’ Janice instructs us,” adds fellow student Susan Gerretson. “Janice really teaches us how to see and how to see things in a new way. I haven’t drawn since high school, but that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned from her class.” Gerretson shares, “and that is a valuable gift to learn at any age.” Janice Walrafen is a working artist who makes handmade tiles and sculpture from clay and teaches art to people of all ages. She also co-creates at AllTogetherNow! Community Arts Center in East Montpelier. “The way Janice teaches gives me an opportunity to broaden my horizons with drawing. It helps me look at art in a whole different way,” Barrett shares. Both students also described how the non-judgmental creative process allows them to grow skills through positive feedback. Instead of creating based on a pre-designed outcome, which can lead to a lot of fear in the process, Janice creates a safe space in which to share and show one’s work in the class. This is valuable as well, because the class itself provides a social outlet to students, especially on the heels of the pandemic. As Gerretson shared, “I moved here during the pandemic and this class provided a necessary experience of socialization for me. As a newcomer, this has helped me integrate more thoroughly into the community. It’s a way to connect.” Registration is now open at the senior activity center for the spring semester, with more than 30 classes on the list. Visit montpelier-vt.org/751/Classes. Sarah Lipton is the director of the Montpelier Senior Activity Center.