Thursday, January 4, 2018

Gallery 54 artist featured in Auburn Citizen

A Denver, Colorado-based art enrichment program is opening a second branch on Mary Street in Auburn. 
Central New York native Warner K. Varno, a master teaching artist and founder of Time for Art, said she's starting off the new year with a soft opening, but she has big plans for the program's future. Classes in drawing, painting, sculpture, mixed media and recycled art for those in kindergarten through sixth grade will start after school Mondays and Wednesdays in January, in addition to a Saturday studio time.
Central New York native Warner Varno is a master
teaching artist and founder of Time for Art, a 
Denver, Colorado-based art enrichment program. 
Varno is opening a second branch of Time for Art 
on Mary Street in Auburn.
Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen
Varno is lifting the new business off the ground as the sole art teacher, but she plans to pull in others as the program grows. She hopes to make Time for Art a nonprofit organization, too. Much of what she's working to establish in the Auburn location comes from the work already happening in Denver — summer camps, after school programs, studio time for all ages to work on projects. She's also developed scholarship programs for families.
"Especially people pulling in from rural areas around Auburn, I want them to be able to afford it and get high quality instruction, and not just from me," she said. "It's a slow incremental thing. We're here, but we're not ready to go. We have to go through this phase of transition."
The transition involves the 23 Mary St. location called The Shop. Julie Varno, Warner's mother, cut and styled women's hair there for 53 years. It started in 1964 as Joy and Julie's, a salon with Joy Tripiciano. Julie took it on solo from 1988 to 2015 before Janiece Oliver came on board, cutting men's hair. The city of Auburn granted a variance to convert the shop into an art school this year, but Oliver will continue cutting hair there at least until the summer, Varno said. 
Born in Auburn, Varno grew up in Elbridge and now lives in Skaneateles. It was a while before she circled back to her old stomping grounds, however. After finishing up her degrees in fine art and anthropology at SUNY Potsdam, she worked at Fort Drum conducting a cultural resource survey for Native American artifacts. She left the Army base to paint furniture at MacKenzie-Childs. 
In 1998, Varno headed west, spending some time in Colorado and California. She took an archaeology job in the Sacramento area, while displaying some of her work in an all-women's art studio called Matrix. Through a grant from the gallery, Varno found art in a new light — through education. Bringing art and literacy to a local school, Varno found herself reading to children, many of whom did not speak English.
"We used art to understand the book they were supposed to be reading, and it was so cool," she said. "Art was the language, and a little bit of performance and a lot of visual art. That's when I returned to Colorado and would get the master's and focus on teaching art in schools."
Varno got her teaching license from the University of Denver, specializing in kindergarten through 12th grade curriculum and instruction with a focus on art and visual culture. Visiting multiple schools, Varno found that many students did not have art opportunities, and what classes were available were pitifully short, she said.
In 2006, Varno opened Time for Art in Denver. Her friend and colleague Ippy Farnam is running things there while Varno is getting the Auburn location up and running. Besides the Mary Street space, Varno has also been teaching art and yoga classes at the Skaneateles YMCA and Community Center, and displaying and selling her own art in the Skaneateles shop Gallery 54.
While there are some existing art programs in the area, Varno said what sets hers apart is its more playful nature combined with high-quality art lessons. She incorporates yoga into her classes, using breathing exercises to get children ready to make their masterpieces. 
"The yoga is really like to prepare and just connect with the breath, and get ready to make the art," she said.
As for the art part, Varno compares her teaching style to the old master painters during the Renaissance, teaching apprentices about their own experiences. This is why Varno is looking forward to bringing in other artists to teach, she said, so students can broaden their skills, scope of work and approaches to creation. 
Staff writer Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (315) 282-2237 or Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.

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