The Banana Factory Arts and Education Center is a gallery in Bethlehem that offers classes and workshops to the public. The Banana Factory is located at 25 W Third St. (Danielle Margolis/B&W Staff)

Banana Factory classes offer diverse art styles


It’s never too late to adopt a new hobby.

Michael Barone didn’t pick up a camera until midway through college. He became so passionate about photography that he switched his major from chemistry to the arts.

Today, Barone is a teaching artist at the Banana Factory Arts and Education Center. He teaches a darkroom class, as well as advanced and basic digital media classes at the center.

The Banana Factory, located at 25 W Third St., offers classes and workshops in mediums such as ceramics, jewelry, painting and photography for people of all ages and skill levels. Most courses last six weeks, but some run for as few as four weeks or as many as eight weeks.

Barone encourages people to see things in his photos the way he sees them. He said he wants to change the audience’s point of view.

He is currently working on a photography series called “Spaces in Places,” which showcases everyday details one is likely to miss. For example, he photographed a corner of a stairwell that is hit by the light in a certain way.

“I like black and white photography the most,” he said. “You get more emotion with it — more than color.”

Barone said he is careful not to impose his agenda on his students. He said his students enter classes with their own ideas, and he helps them develop from basic to advanced photographers.

Melissa Perhamus, another one of Banana Factory’s teaching artists, instructs Water Color 1, Exploring Drawing and Exploring Painting classes.

Perhamus said her personal artistic style centers around surrealist landscapes, which she finds more comfortable than traditional surrealism.

“When I paint, I don’t go out and look at something real and twist it up,” she said. “I go outside and I soak up the imagery. I see rocks and pebbles or a certain branch hanging a certain way and I pull from these references. I’m not trying to recreate what I see.”

Perhamus said she brings this awareness of organic imagery into her classroom and helps her students discover their own processes of creating and painting.

She said, as a mother of three, she has more experience than an art or teaching degree can provide. Perhamus said she uses her knowledge from her involvement in her kids’ lives to encourage her students to try new things.

Devyn Briggs has been a teacher and artist with Banana Factory for the past four years.

Briggs is proficient in ceramics and specializes in both painting and hand-thrown textile pieces. She teaches acrylic painting — levels 1, 2, and 3 and abstract painting. She also instructs an adult hand-building class in which students shape pottery without using a wheel. Instead of using a wheel, her students use coil and slab building as substitutes to lay the foundation for further surface work like as carving and glazing.

Briggs said her art is inspired by her heritage and draws on Colombian, Latin American and African art. She said she is always creating something new.

“I always like the newest things I make,” Briggs said, “and I do a little bit of everything.”

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