April 12, 2022

Alumna Amanda Hawkins spent a recent weekend holed up with a drawing class, guiding them through artistic exploration in a place only just beginning to rediscover itself.

“I wanted all artists to look past their first discovery and see the vast decisions one can make on a drawing surface.”

Hawkins returned to the North Shore last year after time spent in Portland and Boston. She’s since taken up the mantle (easel?) of painting instructor at Montserrat and is also teaching regularly for Rocky Neck Art Colony, where she also serves as a trustee. Now, to ensure there’s no doubt of her return, she’s teaching mark-making at a Cape Ann landmark.

As an artist and as an instructor, Hawkins has always been concerned with place, encouraging her students to discover and rediscover the space they’re in. What better place to do that than Gloucester’s Old Paint Factory, a building rediscovering itself through a new use.

The Tarr & Wonson Paint Factory has sat on the edge of Gloucester Harbor for over 150 years. Since 2008, it’s been home to Ocean Alliance, a non-profit organization whose mission is to protect whales and the environment through research and education. Recently, Ocean Alliance in conjunction with the Rocky Neck Art Colony, hosted Amanda Hawkins for a class called “Drawing in the Old Paint Factory.”

“There’s something ironic,” says Hawkins, “about how the factory’s tenants reflect the values of the time—at one point it was leaking chemicals into Gloucester harbor, now it aims to protect the ocean. These are the conceptual underpinnings of the landscapes I paint and therefore teaching at this location was very important to me.”

The shoreline along the factory is littered with buoys and abandoned lobster traps, and the view at the end looks out over the wide sweep of Gloucester harbor. Hawkins calls it a “full sensory experience.”

“I’ve had the pleasure of teaching where the mountains meet the sea in British Columbia, at the base of the Sedona’s mesas, and on the short of Squam Lake, but the Old Paint Factory proved to be, if not the most beautiful, then the most interesting classroom I’ve ever taught in.”

You can find Amanda’s own work at her website and follow her on Instagram at @mandahawk_studio.