Trick out my auto body

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By Raylyn Rollins

By Raylyn Rollins

Some artists use brushes and canvas. Some use clay. Some use pencils and papers. The students at the Riverside Community College body shop use an airbrush and metal.

Many people have seen and reveled in the beautiful work done in the television show “Pimp My Ride.” A body shop “pimps out” – or fixes up- an old, beat up car with a new coat of paint, airbrushed designs and trendy gadgets. A car enthusiast or not, some things are just art.

However, it may come to the surprise of many that RCC has an auto and body shop that does art work comparable to what is seen on television.

When walking through the automotive garage located below the business education building, one notices the water fountains have bright, colorful, airbrushed designs. There are car hoods displayed in the garage featuring a number of designs, each different and artistic in its own right.

What started with a painted motocross helmet has morphed into car hoods, drinking fountains, and even a toy car for RCC President Daniel Castro. 

Richard Barron, the associate dean of academic innovative programs at RCC, was the first to really discover the work being done in the garage. 

As he was walking through the auto garage he first noticed a drinking fountain that was a little different. Rather than the plain brown cover usually seen, it was rich in color with an intricate, airbrushed skull. Surprised, Barron was eager to find out who had done it.

As he discovered, it was student Matt Hutchenson. Barron was so impressed he gave Hutchenson a helmet to decorate as he saw fit.

When it came back after a month, the helmet was transformed into a piece of artwork with flames and skulls.  The helmet is now displayed in Barron’s office. 

Word of this art spread to Castro and he was soon eager to find out for himself. He brought in a model car to be painted.  It came back with intricate, bright orange flames on the hood and “RCC Tigers” insignia on the sides.

Hutchenson, one of several artists at the body shop, takes pride in his work. One single venture can take anywhere from five to 20 hours to complete.

For him, it all started with an airbrush and a motocross helmet. After spending time tricking it out and making it his own, he says that he was hooked. 

From there he moved on to the cars and the drinking fountains. And his enthusiasm has spread to the other students. Several of the students are talented with an airbrush and paint everything from other fountains, to bumpers, to the car hoods hanging on display on the walls. 

However, not many people know about all the hard work the automotive program does. 

While cosmetology and nursing are well known programs at RCC, the automotive technology program is not quite as popular.

According to Hutchenson, the body shop had a display on campus early on in the semester. Few knew there was even an automotive program, much less the intricacies of the program, which go from fixing different types of cars, to airbrushing, to pin striping and body work for a start.

He admits that the garage being a little hard to find does not help matters.

However, Barron is ready to spread awareness about the vocational programs at RCC. He wants to start by decorating the conference room in the administration building to showcase work from the body shop and the welding program. From there, he would love to see vocational artwork displayed all around the city campus to spread awareness.

This even includes reupholstering the chairs for the cosmetology program, which is a current undertaking of the auto shop’s upholstery students.

What is different about the vocational studies is the approach to learning. The instructors are highly interactive with the students and frequently encourage them to take a variety of classes, including engineering.

According to Hutchenson, the classes are interactive and fun. Plus the relationship between the student and instructor is more like a friendship. The instructors encourage the students to explore and discover.

Castro couldn’t be more proud of the automotive program, and is ready to take it to the next level.

“There is a lot more to that certain profession than people give it credit for,” he said. “Automotive technology has a big future, especially with new technology, the possibility of alternative fuels and the changing views of transportation and pollution.”

He plans on looking into receiving grants for the program, building partnerships with people in the transportation industry, and finding people to teach about new technologies in the automotive industry.

Even if nothing changes, the students in the body shop will continue to do what they do best. Everything from working on cars to the airbrushed hoods and drinking fountains, these students are preparing for the future.

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