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Fine Arts School in the Pines is a Creative Community Hub

02/24/2016 09:28AM ● Published by David Norby

Back: Doug Pearson, Thea Cinnamon and Dennis Von Zamory Front: Colleen McCartin Florence

Surrounded by vibrant oil paintings, serene watercolors and surreal sculptures sit a cluster of desks set up with easels and paint palettes. A young girl bounces back to her painting in the corner, completing her final touches. Another couple sits while one paints and the other watches; only the soft swish of brush strokes against canvas can be heard in their interaction. Weaving throughout the room, the teacher roams—offering her guidance as each student works on their own masterpiece.   

Fine Arts School in the Pines—a nonprofit founded in 2013 to foster the development and practice of creating art within El Dorado County—is run by gifted volunteers, all of whom offer insight into the fundamentals and advanced skills in genres of drawing, oil, acrylic, watercolor, pastels, pottery and sculpture. Nestled amongst the towering trees of Pollock Pines, the school’s location was chosen not only to serve the needs of the creative community, but also to inspire with its natural beauty. 

“Art is an innate part of who we are as human beings, so it’s important to explore this part of yourself; in doing so, one achieves a greater understanding of who they are…they see the complete, rounded person,” says Doug Pearson, founder and instructor.

With a style based in neuropsychology but adjusted to the arts, the school relies on practice, repetition and support, much like sports instruction. Pearson’s techniques allow both children and adults alike to advance quickly into creating brilliant artwork of their choosing. The school proudly showcases students’ stunning projects in their community gallery alongside pieces by other local artists. 

Under the guidance of Colleen McCartin Florence, LMFT, the administrative/program director, the school offers free outreach programs for those who can benefit most from the powerful form of art therapy. “As with music, art is a way to connect to the right brain, where trauma memory and its emotions are stored. [Since] this part of the brain isn’t verbal, art provides a safe and supportive pathway to express and process repressed trauma, which can move a person to real healing,” McCartin Florence explains. 

Those suffering from Alzheimer’s can express themselves in the school’s Creative Connections program, while veterans with PTSD benefit in the Warrior Arts program. Marshall Hospital also refers patients with chronic disease or those dealing with grief and loss, while foster youth flourish with the connection between art and nature. “The community here is supportive and reflects the truth of who they are,” says McCartin Florence. “It encourages participants to move forward and maybe take that step they wouldn’t have taken otherwise.”

Dakota Daniels

As with most nonprofits, the school relies heavily upon grant money and donations to operate; in fact, their main focus is to be owned and operated fully by the members of the community. “The ultimate goal of the ‘Give a High Five’ campaign is for the school to be 100-percent financially supported by the local community,” McCartin Florence says. 

Excitedly rolling out blueprints, Pearson’s passion is evident with his plans to add music and sound rooms, more artistic space, and even a theater. With art programs continually being cut from public schools, it’s vital now to keep the artistic heart of our region beating fiercely. “If every household in El Dorado County gave just five dollars a year, we would be able to maintain and support the future development of nonprofit fine arts programs, including the building of an all-inclusive community fine arts center to provide classes and productions in art, music, dance and theater.”

By Heather L. Becker // Photos by Dante Fontana

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