Art Engagement: Taking Your Appreciation of Visual Art to the Next Level

Art patrons enjoying work by Kelly Porter. (Photo by Kelly Kuhn, courtesy Blue Gallery)

Handbuilding demonstration at Belger. (Photo courtesy of Belger Crane Yard Studios.)

Evening “paint and sip” sessions have become a major source of income for small galleries worldwide. Participants enjoy the opportunity to become a player rather than spectator, have fun with friends and come home with a finished product — either hanging it on the wall as a conversation piece or hiding it in the closet afterwards — and the sense of accomplishment has people coming back. Experience-based art involvement has gained so much in popularity that last year Entrepreneur Magazine listed Painting With a Twist among its 50 fastest-growing franchises.

Similarly, encouraging lifelong learning and hands-on involvement within the arts is a relatively new mission for museums worldwide. Within the last decade, museums have chosen to involve the community in innovative and inspiring ways, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is no exception, offering courses year-round in watercolor, pastels, graphite and textiles, as well as themed courses relating to current exhibitions.

In the mood to get your hands dirty? Get inspired at Belger Art Center located at 2100 Walnut Street and then head over to Belger Crane Yard Studios at 2011 Tracy Avenue for year-round clay courses for adults including Friday and Saturday Date Night Classes, as well as four-week classes in clay. Adult clay courses include beginning wheel, figure sculpting, hand-building, glazing, and mold making.

Adult class participants learning mold-making techniques at Belger. (Photo courtesy of Belger Crane Yard Studios.)

The Kansas City Art Institute’s continuing education department offers an intense variety of courses including Art History, Ceramics, Drawing, Fiber Arts, Graphic Design, Mixed Media, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture and Woodworking. Offered year-round and taught by working professionals who are oftentimes graduates of the Institute, you really couldn’t ask for more if you’re looking for an authentic art student experience.

Many working artists in Kansas City and beyond earn a living with a combination of educating and making. If you already have an artist that you follow, a beautiful window into their work can be taking a course. Not only do you get to enjoy the environment of a working artist’s studio, but you also have the opportunity to get to know more about their habits, tricks and techniques by spending time with him or her in a more familiar way.

While academic research surrounding the cognitive benefits of lifelong learning remains scarce, there is mounting evidence that continued intellectual engagement keeps depression at bay. Another benefit of your new commitment to the arts is that while you gain a new skill, your appreciation for artists’ work will deepen in the process. There is no better way to cement your newfound knowledge in ceramics, painting or sculpture than to visit one (or many) of Kansas City’s galleries with a friend and have a conversation about the work.

Christel Highland

Christel Highland is an Artist, Curator, Designer and Realtor/Investor living and working in Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District who also has the distinct honor of serving on the Municipal Arts Commission as well as the Executive Committee for the new Kansas City International Airport. Her most cherished life’s work is being the Mother to Clive and Otto.

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