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Art classes draw young and old to Catonsville studio

Relaxation through art in Catonsville

It's a rainy Thursday night and Staub Art Studio, in The Junction on Edmondson Avenue in Catonsville, is packed.

Students ranging in age from 8 to retired are seated at desks and on stools, mixing paints, drawing grid lines on canvases and blending pastels.

The studio has been offering a welcome respite for Catonsville residents looking to get away from the stresses of daily life for more than 20 years, ever since Maria Goebel and her husband, George Goebel, decided to find a better home for their basement art studio.

Maria Goebel's mother started the art teaching business in 1960 with her own basement classroom, Maria Goebel said. After graduating from Towson University, where she studied art, Maria Goebel followed in her mother's footsteps.

Today, the studio teaches about 200 students each week in classes offered on a semester schedule at 1709 Edmondson Ave. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in the afternoons and evenings.

For many of the younger students, the classes are a way to fine-tune their skills and, in many cases, get help preparing a portfolio to send as part of an application to area magnet schools or to college art programs.

Skylar Bacon, a student in the children's Thursday evening class, was signed up for the class as a gift for her 10th birthday, she said.

Skylar said she is using her lessons to help prepare her work for an application to Sudbrook Magnet Middle School in Pikesville.

"I like painting. I like drawing. I like basically any kind of art," she said, adding that she's enjoyed drawing for as long as she can remember.

"It's just what I do when I feel mad or sad," she said.

Last week, the Catonsville Elementary School student was working on her blending technique with pastels, something she said would help her round out her portfolio.

Each new student at the studio must go through Staub's tried and true method of starting with the basics and then moving progressively through to the more complicated media, Maria Goebel said.

Students begin with pastels and a simple still life. That allows them to practice working with basic elements, like shape, she said, and to begin experimenting with blending.

Adult students begin the same way, George Goebel said. While Maria Goebel heads the teaching for the kids' classes, George Goebel teaches each of the four adult classes offered each week.

George, a former graphic designer for then Catonsville Community College, began teaching at the studio regularly more than 10 years ago, after he was laid off in the merger of the county's community colleges.

Maria Goebel jokes that she decided to hire her husband "out of the goodness of my heart."

In addition to running a frame shop out of the first floor of the studio, George is a well-liked instructor among his adult students.

Catonsville resident Tim McGuire said he's been coming to Staub Art Studio for about 12 years, and every class offers him something different.

"You learn something every time," McGuire said of the classes. "George sees things that we don't see."

McGuire said first met George Goebel more than 40 years ago. When he heard that George had opened the art studio with his wife, he mentioned it to his own wife, who, later that year, gave him lessons at the studio for his birthday.

"I hadn't painted hardly ever in my life," McGuire said. "Now I love it."

Fellow adult student Beth Jordan was one of the first students at the studio and also brought very little art experience with her when she signed up for a class in 1999.

She had signed her 8-year-old daughter up for classes, then started thinking that giving drawing and painting a try might be fun.

"So I asked if there was an adult class," Jordan said. There was, and she's been hooked ever since.

For years, Jordan and her daughter both took classes, her daughter during the day and Jordan at night after work as a home school mom.

She enjoyed the classes so much that when she heard her friend, Beth Wire, mention how much she used to like to draw in high school, she told Wire she should give one of Staub's classes a try. Today, the pair sit side by side in the Thursday night class.

"I feel like no one can take this away from you," she said, adding that she'll continue painting until she can no longer do much else.

Taking two hours each week to come to the studio and concentrate solely on paints and a canvas is, in many ways, almost therapeutic, she said.

"You just kind of get away from all your stuff," Wire said. "I think everybody should try it."

Next to Wire and Jordan in Thursdays sits another student who found art later in life.

Tom Gandolfi found himself a little bored after retiring from a career as an executive with the Giant food company. He thought about giving an art class a try, he said, but he didn't want to go have to go to a senior center to find a class exclusively for adults.

Then he overheard someone at his community pool in Woodstock mention taking an adult art class at Staub.

After having to wait for a seat to open up in one of the classes, Gandolfi said he's now been taking classes in Catonsville for about a year.

While he said he hadn't done anything even close to artistic since eighth grade, Gandolfi said he is happy he signed up for the class.

In September, he finished a painting for his 19-year-old granddaughter that he sent to her as a gift at college at the University of Alabama.

On a recent Thursday night, he was preparing to paint an image of his daughter holding his infant grandchild. The hope, he said, is that he can give the painting to his daughter as a gift when it's finished, but he's never quite sure how a painting will turn out before he starts, he said.

"If it turns out, she gets it," he said. "If it doesn't turn out right, no one will ever know I did it."

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