Jennifer MacIsaac - Basement Community Studio

Messy Baby Class, A Sensory Art Experience
Messy Baby Class, A Sensory Art Experience

1. Please share who you are, and the name of your art program or art initiative. 


My name is Jennifer MacIsaac and I am co-owner and director of the Basement Community Art Studio in Knoxville TN.


2. Where is your art program located in the world? What population do you serve and why do you enjoy working with this demographic? Why is your work needed?


We are located in Knoxville's Historic Old City. We are a creative maker space focused on fostering creative play and expression in people of all ages.


We offer a variety of classes, events, and workshops for infants, children, and adults. We believe that all people are inherently creative and that each persons body, mind, and soul can be fed through creativity. 


A Preschool Class Using Nature Paint Brushes
A Preschool Class Using Nature Paint Brushes

3. Please share a descriptive “snapshot” of one of your art sessions, your studio/workspace, and describe the emotional “atmosphere” of your sessions.


Our infant to preschool age classes focus on sensory exploration of various mediums and art tools. We are inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to art education for this age group.


For our older children we try to focus on building skills within each medium while still providing ample opportunities for creative self expression and creative play. We are influenced by the TAB (Teaching for Artistic Behvior) approach for this age group. 


For our adult groups or focus is on fostering our own innate creativity in a safe and relaxing environment. We offer classes, retreats, and workshops that focus on mindfulness through art, social connections, and creative play.

A Bird Collage form by School Aged Artist
A Bird Collage form by School Aged Artist

4. How do you make your artists feel at ease so that they can more comfortably express themselves?


For our children we keep the materials open and at their level so that they can find the tools necessary for expressing their own ideas. Their independence is honored and encouraged.


For adults we try to keep our atmosphere casual and fun. We often incorporate aspects of mindfulness and meditation into our classes as well.  


5. Could you share an example of an art directive or an art theme that you might typically use in your art program?


For our Creative Self-Care series we offer a monthly class focused on a theme for the month. Our participants gather and are led in a meditation by an experienced guide and then following the meditation they are led in a creative visual exploration of the theme. 


Our last class theme was the finger labyrinth. We were led in a labyrinth meditation followed by a short discussion and then we used a wet on wet watercolor technique to decorate our own labyrinths on watercolor canvas to take home.  

The Finger Labyrinth - Creative Self-Care Class
The Finger Labyrinth - Creative Self-Care Class

6. What most touches you most about the art groups that you facilitate?


I love to see how people express themselves through art. It is wonderful to see the creativity in each person blossom. I have noticed that within each age group the student will often come in very tentatively and with some reserve, but as they settle in to the experience they open up and relax. They begin to be present in the moment and let go of their hesitations. It is quite a beautiful thing to witness! 


7. Could you share a story about how art making has facilitated change, deeper connection, or emotional or psychological healing for an individual member of your art group?


I am not a therapist so we do not often get into discussions that would give me that sort of incite, but I have heard many people say that they feel more relaxed after a class. They will say things like, "Oh, I almost did not come, but I am so glad I did! I really need this." I think that when people take time out for themselves to nurture their soul then they are more equipped to deal with the trials of their life.  

Zentangle Club
Zentangle Club

8. Could you share a story or anecdote about something that is challenging about running your art program?


The most challenging thing about running my program is simply letting people know that we exist! We are a very small studio and I am the only one who works here full time. I run all of the day to day tasks, promotions, planning, and I do most of the teaching as well. I do have a few contract teachers who teach specific classes as well though.


Our budget is quite small for things like advertising and we are still not making enough money to expand our reach as I would like, but we are ticking on, lol. We are hoping to eventually go in a nonprofit direction so that we can apply for funding to support some of our programming. I think it would be great to work with a board of people who hold the mission of the studio and can help to expand its reach!


9. What personally motivates you to facilitate art in the way that you do? Who are you as a creator and a teacher? What makes your art program unique?


I am motivated by my belief that every person is innately creative and can benefit from fostering their own unique creativity! As a creator I love to experiment. I do not have a signature style that identifies me. I love to play with various mediums and ideas. When I create even if it is just a sample for a class I am teaching, I feel more energized and centered.


I think my program is unique in its focus. Most of the art programs around our area focus on skill building with in a particular medium. Our program focuses on creative play. I think that providing a space where play is encouraged helps to build creativity. There is no one right way to create art, and yes sometimes the experiment does not work, but that is fine. The process of creating builds your inner creativity and feeds your mind, body, and soul.

Jennifer MacIsaac - Owner & Manager
Jennifer MacIsaac - Owner & Manager

10. How can people reading this article support your art program? How can people find out more about you and contact you? 


To find out more about who we are you can visit our website, to read more about our studio and what we offer. If you like what you see, sign up for our email list and you will receive all of our blog posts and our monthly class calendar delivered to your email! You can also follow us on social media:


Our Studio Instagram features photos from all of our classes!

Our Messy_Baby_Art Instagram features our messy sensory based art for babies and toddlers.

Our Facebook page offers studio news and events as well as some interesting articles and projects I find to share!

Our Pinterest account is filled with great inspiration for all ages and creative interests.

Our Online Store is where you can read about specific classes and events. You can even register online!


Thanks so much for your interest in our little studio!