From the Seattle, Washington area, Stephanie Allgood is an accomplished artist who has taken her talents and developed an after school program, Art Club, to mentor and inspire budding new artists. Some of her students’ artwork has been shown in a Bellevue Arts Museum display: Unity/Variety: The Weaving Project and currently there is a collaborative artwork piece on display at Antioch University in Seattle. Stephanie has set out to create a “Wonderful Life” which she says, “is one we make with others- sharing what we know, learning along the way.”
Describe your venture: I teach eight after school art classes at three different elementary schools. I also blog about kid’s art, quilting, and other creative pursuits on my blog, makeitawonderfullife.blogspot.com
What set you on your path to this venture? I have a BA in Art, but after graduating from college, I married and we had 5 kids. Parenting filled most of my hours, but I was able to sell crafts, self-publish a children’s book with my husband, and volunteer as an art docent in my children’s classrooms, just to name a few creative pursuits from that time. A favorite quote that acted as a mantra for me during those busy years was, “And when I can not write a poem, I’ll make biscuits and feel just as pleased.” (Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea). I think creativity is a mindset that can energize everything we do.
I returned to school and earned an MA in Education when my youngest child was eight. It was a lot to take on with four kids still at home! But we made it work. I loved going back to school, reconnecting with a part of myself that I’d put on hold for a number of years.
Working as a teaching assistant with a woman I’d known for several years was a career turning point for me. My years of volunteer experience, my formal education, teaching at a private school, and the mentoring of someone already teaching art classes made developing my own program a natural progression.
What fears did you have getting started? Starting as an assistant for someone really helped. But expanding my own art program meant contacting other schools. It can be scary to approach people you don’t know. And submitting a proposal to a museum was scary, but the resulting opportunity to get our artwork displayed there for several months was worth overcoming my fear of rejection.
What was involved in getting started? My art classes are part of each school’s extracurricular activities. So I met with the school PTSA reps to outline my program and discuss details. I also looked at my projected expenses to determine how much I needed to charge to make it profitable and worth my time too.
What were your start-up costs? What are your ongoing costs? I started by using the tools and materials of my mentor. She was retiring from teaching, moving, and she planned on just focusing on her art. I then built my own supplies as needed with each project. My ongoing costs vary, depending on projects and the need to replace tools like paint brushes and other supplies.
How do you get the word out about your venture? I attend back-to-school events where I display examples of the artwork, and I’m available to answer questions. Having a simple hands-on art project has made my “booth” popular at these events. I maintain bulletin board space at each school. It takes extra hours to hang artwork, but it’s so worth it! The kids love seeing their artwork on display, and it’s an ongoing way for Art Club to stay visible at the schools. I also distribute a flyer and registration info as is allowed by each school, both online and as a hard copy flyer. And I blog about Art Club too.
How much time a week do you spend on your venture? I spend about 24 hours a week for 8 hours of classes. (My brain is working on it more than that!)
What have you learned along the way? I’ve learned that I have to set boundaries for myself, and that’s okay. For example, I don’t include kindergarteners in my program, so I’ve had to tell parents no, even when they tell me how gifted their artist is. And I’ve learned ways to simplify things like payments, which I used to collect monthly. I now register students twice a year, with classes October through May. (My schools are moving to online payment and registration, a convenience for everyone!) I am so fortunate to have seen a successful program in action, to have had the on-the-job training that working as an assistant provided. I’ve also learned that helpers makes the job more enjoyable. My schools require a parent chaperone, but I also hire a parent or high school student to assist. Consistent help is worth the expense.
What do you like best about your venture? I love the flexibility of designing my own program. My classes are offered during the school year, which allows me to have time for family and travel. I love the opportunity to share something I love with kids. I love having students tell me Art Club is their favorite part of their week. My greatest reward is when they look at their artwork and then break out in a big smile saying, “I like it.” It’s rewarding when I’m hanging artwork and my artists excitedly tell their friends, “I made that!” Our school district doesn’t have classroom art specialists. I feel that I’m filling a void for kids longing for art opportunities, and at the same time, filling it in me too.
What do you see for you and your venture in the future? I plan to continue teaching for the next few years. I’m pursing more opportunities to display our artwork at museums or other venues. It’s been gratifying to have the project receive international attention, and I would love to continue the project through additional workshops and installations. As I approach retiring a few years from now, I would be happy to mentor someone in the way I was mentored, so I can pass on the joy of teaching art to someone else.
Visit Stephanie on her blog: www.makeitawonderfullife.blogspot.com