Carol Gargon has been teaching art classes at CCV for 31 years. She’s taught graphic design, drawing, pastels, painting, jewelry, printmaking, and a crafting class. This spring, students in her Painting I class in Montpelier had a chance to show their work in CCV president Joyce Judy’s office gallery, where artwork from CCV faculty members is displayed in rotating exhibits.
The current exhibit includes paintings by students Tasha Bisson, Talvi Ekis, Claudia Farnham, Hannah Gladczuk, Wendy Wenger, Ariana Hausmann-Antonelli, Katelyn Santamore, Jing Ji Liang Stangel, Mun H Ward, Logan Wedge, and Becca Youmans.
The class studied watercolor, oil, and acrylic techniques, and the show in President Judy’s office features still lifes of onions, along with a few other plants and animals. Like most CCV classes, Gargon’s was a diverse group of students, including Early College students who were spending their senior year of high school at CCV, as well as several adult students.
Jing Ji Liang Stangel had never painted before. She says art classes were not a part of her education while she was growing up in China. She studied music, and became an opera singer. She first came to CCV for an accounting class in the early 2000s, and returned a few years later for a drawing class.
Stangel spent her career in music, and for the last several years, has run a business selling traditional Chinese food at local farmers’ markets. She has been taking art classes at CCV because she discovered that making art makes her happy. She says it’s easy to get absorbed in her work and forget about the time. (This summer, she took an accelerated Landscape in Art class that met once a week for a full day. “I thought eight hours was long,” she said of her expectations. “But it was never enough!”)
“I think I found the place for me,” she says of CCV. “It’s a place to improve, to do more.” She had doubts before taking her first class here almost 20 years ago. “‘Accounting’s hard,’ I thought. ‘I don’t know, I don’t speak English.’ I got an A.” Her experience here has been self-affirming. “I found myself,” she says. “I found something I never thought I could do.”
Gargon agrees that the study of art is about more than the technical skills of painting or drawing. “It’s finding out about yourself through your artwork.”
“You learn self-respect, self-discipline, and how to manage your time,” Gargon adds. She says that unlike some painting instructors, she doesn’t want her students to merely emulate her style. “I don’t want 50 Carols running around.” Her approach is student-centered. She spends time learning about each student, where they’re coming from, and the skills they bring to the class. From there, the emphasis is on building confidence.
One of Gargon’s students this spring came to class unsure of her abilities, and lacking some of the recommended preparatory classes. But Gargon encouraged her to give it a try. It was a rough start, and the student came close to dropping the class. “By the [end of the semester] she was one of the best artists in the class,” says Gargon. “If you want to do it, you’ll improve.”
Gargon taught at Harwood Union High School for 42 years. For 25 of those years, she spent summers taking students all over the globe with the company EF Educational Tours. “My goal was to hit every continent before retirement,” she said. “And I did.” In addition to continuing to teach at CCV, she currently works as a teacher education placement coordinator at Northern Vermont University-Johnson.