Inspiring the Heart with the Hand
Carolyn King is evangelical about unlocking the passion for artistic expression in others.
A lifelong student, artist and teacher, she engages the world as a canvas. “Visual art is an expression of the human spirit,” she says in her art classes. Her approach is a holistic one: she aims guidance towards the body (use of materials), mind (ideas) and spirit (feelings) as she instructs both adults and children. “Artists read people, places, energy and cultures visually. It is the thread that connects us to the universal spirit.” King has devoted her life to realizing visual art in this balanced, whole way.
Early in her life, King realized that society gave more value to cognition over the intuitive realm of being. She became a teaching artist to foster creative vision in others, integrating her art form, perspectives and skills into a wide range of settings. Her teaching practice has taken her all over the continent, from the Canadian Yukon to Central Mexico. Her passion for opening one’s heart through creative practice by working with students ages 3 to 93 includes making art with people of a wide range of abilities.
Eric Bloom, author of The History of Teaching Artistry, defines a teaching artist as a practicing professional artist with the complementary skills, curiosities and sensibilities of an educator that can effectively engage a wide variety of people in learning experiences in, through and about the arts.
“An arts educator demonstrates by example and directs by guidance,” says King. “The artist’s eye is developed through the process of understanding and appreciating art visually, physically and emotionally.” Andy Warhol noted that one must look at a painting for the 100th time to truly see it. “Teaching artists guide their students through a wide swath of art, while learning to attune to the essence of the artist’s vision,” she says. “Part of this approach is to learn to direct one’s gaze in an undifferentiated way, letting the essence rise up. Supporting the student to deepen technical vocabulary in order to be able to express ‘essence’ in a less cognitive, judgmental way and more intuitively, is a timeless gift.”
I consider teaching to be a calling and an outlet for high levels of creativity.
King’s Open Studio Workshop at Heart to Hand Studio is where King shines as a teaching artist with adults. She brings her professional art knowledge and technical skills as demonstrated in work shown at Raices Taller Art Gallery and Workshop, a one-woman show at Contreras Gallery and throughout town at venues like Delectables, on 4th Avenue, and the Open Studio Tour. “One of the points of being here with me in the studio is to fill your artist’s tool belt.” says King to her adult students. She has taken her tool belt concept to The Learning Curve, The Academy Village, Tucson Museum of Art classes for adults, Miles Elementary Exploratory Learning Center and numerous other schools, hospital and clinics throughout the region.
She notes, “As a young student, travels around the world set me on my life’s path. Living in other cultures opened my eyes, heart and mind in many ways, and I was exposed to historical masterpieces, as well as folk art from around the globe. I felt compelled at a young age to respond to cross-cultural creative expression by joining in the conversation and making a contribution both through my own imagery and my work as a teaching artist.”
King says, “I am in a life transition now from working as a freelancer in private and public institutions towards finding others who want to collaborate to create a community-based art center here in Tucson. I’m also being pulled back to Mexico, to San Miguel de Allende, where I established and operated an art school called Corazon del Artista (Heart of the Artist) for eight years before coming to Tucson 14 years ago.”
The push/pull forces in her life have been building for some time. Her daughter, Analyssa, is a young adult. Although her daughter was born with disabilities, King says Analyssa, like most 22-year-olds, yearns to be independent of her mother. This impending life transition, where one’s offspring launches a life of their own, adds fuel to King’s personal, professional and creative evolution.
“I worked as a teaching artist for more than a decade before my daughter was born,” she says “As a creative person who is dedicated to being of service to others, teaching has been a natural path for me; as much as pursuing making my own imagery.” In fact, King has worked in collaboration with community members to create mosaic and painted murals for the past decade in Tucson as an extension of her commitment to visual arts as a path for service.
“I consider teaching to be a calling and an outlet for high levels of creativity. While devoting time and energy to my own studio practice is deeply meaningful and important to me, this work with others is of equal value in my life.” In January 2015, King intends to expand her private teaching work with adults to include a series of Arts & Healing Circles.
Artist ateliers, like Arts and Healing Circles, attract adults from a wide variety of professions to share and support each other in breaking out a sense of imbalance where cognition largely trumps intuition. The atelier environment is designed to support participants to explore and to expand a sense of self through color, form, symbols and imagery. This environment also encourages everyone to renegotiate relationship with one’s inner critic so that this voice can be of service to creativity, instead of a hindrance.
Visual art is an expression of the human spirit.
King’s Arts and Healing Circles are formed around creative play in a supportive environment while learning new techniques and skills with art materials. People show up with unfinished paintings from earlier years, pick up where they’ve left off and update their skill sets. Others come to reconnect with a childlike sense of wonder and curiosity as they are guided by King through a series of non-threatening exercises using a wide array of art materials. Still others come to explore art making as a meditative practice.
The attraction of Arts and Healing Circles includes both the access to an art studio and a working artist. People of diverse backgrounds are drawn by the thematic open studio format of the Open Studio Workshop at Heart to Hand Studio. Well-appointed with work tables, tools, supplies, art books and plenty of room to pin art up, stand back and appreciate its content and composition, the studio has all the ingredients to encourage artistic growth. King provides the recipe. Reminiscent of the ateliers of Italy and France, she serves as a guide or midwife who inspires participants to give birth to their unique personal expressions on paper and canvas.
The Art and Healing Circles are a culmination of King’s lifelong pursuit of distilling the artist’s experience. She has engaged art as a touchstone, as a companion, a partner in conversation with her inner life. The gift of the Heart to Hand Studio classes is the path King has walked and invites others to walk; personal expression through drawing, painting, mixedmedia, printmaking and collage.
Dale Bruder is a regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.