Bringing Positivity into Your Life with Art
I’m an art teacher who teaches in a healthcare support center, where I teach both patients and caregivers, and at libraries and art centers.
Shelley Klammer’s definition of expressive arts fits me exactly: “An expressive arts facilitator does not offer therapy but facilitates the process of honest self-expression by designing and initiating expressive creative processes for people.”
I used to teach jewelry making and art making in more traditional art centers, but after being part of the 20 Neighborhoods Project with Woman Made Gallery in Chicago, where 18 teaching artists took the same art project to 18 different diverse and underserved neighborhoods, I was hooked on bringing art to those who don’t get many opportunities to make art, or who need it more right now.
Taking a class and learning a new skills takes courage. Maybe not for everyone, some people love learning new things, but for some people, it’s a huge risk. I honor that risk taking and support students in my classes by creating “can’t fail” projects that also offer the chance for personal expression.
This was really brought home to me last fall when I taught a centerpieces class in advance of Thanksgiving. One woman was really nervous and confessed that she had never taken an art class before. This stunned me. There are adults who have never taken an art class before? She had been afraid to sign up for the class, but bravely took the plunge.
She successfully made her centerpiece and thanked me profusely at the end of class! She made it through and had a positive experience! What a responsibility I had, imagine if her first art class ever had been awful, and she never tried again?
We all need that safe space in order to create, and early small successes encourage people to keep going with their creativity. I create that space as a teacher, by being kind, empathetic, encouraging, and by choosing and creating projects that are approachable and do-able.
Below are links to some of of my projects and approaches. One recurring theme you’ll see in my teaching is using simple materials—I love it when I teach a technique that students can replicate at home with materials from the grocery store and just one small trip to the craft store.
I also sometimes use upcycled materials, in part because this keeps costs down, but more importantly, because they can be a useful creative constraint. And, because the materials are humble, students don’t have to overcome the issue of preciousness, of the materials being so special or expensive that they are hesitant to use them.
A theme in my teaching over the past two years has been injecting little bits of hope and positivity into each project or class, starting with my summer day camp and class, “Random Acts of Kindness,” in which we made Kirigami Prayer Flags and lots of little encouraging notes to leave for someone else to find. This is also in the Daruma dolls we make in the Japanese Dolls class, more details on those projects are in the links below.
Resources from Elaine Luther:
Elaine Luther is an artist with a sense of humor, an enthusiastic and kind art teacher and a public engagement artist. Her mission is to make art that’s sometimes vulnerable, and sometimes funny.
Her art has been exhibited in Chicago and across the country.
She regularly gives speeches at conferences and professional association meetings and writes at MooreWomenArtists.org.
She is an Advisory Board member for Woman Made Gallery and an ambassador for the Self-Employment in the Arts Conference.
Her next adventure is creating online courses that are the online version of her live courses.
Visit her on her website: www.elainelutherart.com
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