Duckworth agreed and then asked Dedetsinas if she’d like to host a monthly paint night.
As a painter and crafter, Duckworth wanted to host art nights ever since she opened the café inside the Black Road branch of the Joliet Public Library four years ago. Duckworth said she envisioned her place as a community center, not just a place to grab a cup of coffee and a sandwich.
Dedetsinas said she had never taught a class. The concept made her nervous, but she agreed – and then found her students were nervous, too.
“Many of them had never lifted a paintbrush,” Dedetsinas said. “So I just approached it in a relaxed way and showed how easy and fun it can be, not stressful at all.”
Each month follows a theme – January was coffee month – and each Monday night class features a different medium.
The first Monday is devoted to watercolors, taught by Ann Danbury of Joliet. Fiber art is on the second, and Dedetsinas’ acrylics class is on the fourth. The third Monday is “miscellaneous,” as the mediums and projects vary month to month, Duckworth said.
Teachers create a prototype of the month’s selection and hang it in the café so patrons can see it in advance of the class. Dedetsinas said the January acrylics class will paint a stack of coffee cups against an orange background.
Students tend to return each month, with at least one new face per class, Dedetsinas said. Although art nights are for adults, Dedetsinas lets kids attend if they are accompanied by adults.
“One week, I had a 5-year-old and a 95-year-old at the same time,” Dedetsinas said.
In January, Danbury introduced her students to the concept of painting on book pages. In this case, Danbury drew four different designs of coffee cups on pages torn from “The Inverted Forest,” by John Dalton, which students had the option of “antiquing” by staining them with coffee.
Danbury also encouraged embellishing the watercolors with watercolor pencils and fine point markers. For some, Danbury said, painting on book pages becomes a type of journaling.
One reason Amanda Dominick of Joliet attended the January watercolor class is because she likes coffee and books.
“My family teases me about the huge collection of coffee cups I have at home,” Dominick said.
Duckworth said past fiber art projects include crocheting and making felted purses or cardinal pins, and she wants to introduce knitting at some point. Duckworth also has an art wall in her café and features a local artist six times per year.
She’d like eventually to broaden the event concept by adding reading nights, kid jams and open mic and comedy nights.
“But that’s something I’ll work on once I get the art thing in full swing,” Duckworth said.
The cost? Acrylics night is $20 and watercolors is $15, which pays for materials and instructors; the café doesn’t receive a cent, Duckworth said. People can sign up in advance in the café.
Attendance at art nights has run as high as 18, but Duckworth said she tries to limit it to 15, as the café is small and needs to be available for library patrons, too. Duckworth does little to advertise the classes.
“Basically, it’s just word of mouth,” Duckworth said. “I put a flier on the door or window, and people come in when they’re interested.”
In addition to the art nights, Duckworth’s café is available as a meeting place for other groups. These include a couple book clubs, a Bible study and a Scrabble club. Duckworth doesn’t charge, but she does ask people to check with her before booking an event.
“I like having things here, people, too,” Duckworth said. “It makes me happy.”