Artist Claire Vassort will conduct a final silk painting demonstration in the lobby of the Chattanooga Public Library on Saturday, May 18. Vassort is artist-in-residence for a new program at the library that is offering free art classes to children and adults. A public installation of participants' work will go up in October.

If you go

› What: Silk painting demonstration.

› When: Noon-2 p.m. Saturday, May 18.

› Where: Chattanooga Public Library, 1001 Broad St.

› Phone: 423-643-7700.

› Note: All of the Silk & Shades classes are full, but check for possible cancellations. The finished works will go on view Oct. 4.

Groves of trees and flocks of birds are taking shape at the Chattanooga Public Library. Come October, their leaves and wings will flutter overhead on painted silk banners meant to "enliven the first floor of the library in a public installation," says Chattanooga artist Claire Vassort.

With a grant from the Lyndhurst Foundation, the downtown library has launched an artist-in-residence program that is offering free art classes to children and adults. This first project, called Silk & Shades at the Library, is led by Vassort, who has more than 30 years' experience in silk painting.

Vassort says she had three objectives for her first partnership with the library: She wanted to contribute to creating an inviting atmosphere at the library. She wanted to educate the public about silk painting — "a bit of an obscure medium," she says. And she wanted to further the library experience by offering patrons multiple reasons to visit.

"It's not only something to look at [for any visitor], but with the classes it's something they can do themselves," she says of participants. "That will bring them back to the library to say, 'Look, I painted this one. That's my contribution.'"

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For continuity, all of the artists in Claire Vassort's Silk & Shades painting classes will use the same color palette.

A live demonstration of silk painting is scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday in the downtown library lobby to preview the works to come. The eight classes, which continue through July, are completely filled, though anyone with an interest is advised to check the website for cancellations.

"It's really good to see the community interest," says Jaclyn Anderson, head librarian at the downtown branch, who says the classes are drawing people of all ages, walks of life and backgrounds. "We do our best to offer things that people in our community want. It's wonderful to see that people are really interested in taking these classes."

Vassort, a native of France who has lived in Chattanooga since 2001, says she has been pleased by the interest in the classes, some of which include Spanish translation. At the first class, on May 4, her 12 participants ranged in age from 7 to 70. They spent three hours learning techniques on small projects before moving on to work collaboratively on larger pieces of fabric.

Once the sessions are complete, 36 banners will hang from cables above the first-floor lobby. The birds and leaves seemed like a good choice for pieces that will float overhead, Vassort says.

Using the natural world as a theme helps unify the pieces, and Vassort says everyone works from the same palette of colors. "They can be creative with that, but it's the same base palette," she says.

Anderson says the library will stage an after-hours event when the installation debuts for its two-year run, "almost like a gallery opening."

"It's great highlighting Claire's work, but also all the people in the community who've worked on it," Anderson says.

Contact Lisa Denton at or 423-757-6281.

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Examples of silk painting are displayed as artist Claire Vassort conducts a silk painting demonstration in the lobby of the Chattanooga Public Library.
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Artist Claire Vassort uses a technique called gutta-resist, a sort of glue, to create an outline and prevent the ink from spreading on the silk fabric during a demonstration at the Chattanooga Public Library.