Free community online art lesson this Saturday

Community members of all ages will have the chance to participate in a free online art lesson March 27 at 11 a.m. and create their own picture while learning about Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s history and her work. The free event is being presented by the Mountlake Terrace Anti-Racist Coalition (MLT ARC) in conjunction with Mountlake Terrace Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) and hosted by the school’s art instructor Brandy Houllahan.

“This month is Women’s History and I really wanted to focus on a minority artist to discuss her story, (Kusama’s) is pretty unique,” Houllahan said. She explained that Kusama felt unable to truly express herself through art in her home country of Japan because of prevailing cultural expectations at the time. “She was expected to do traditional Japanese art, to walk demurely, to get married and have babies and she didn’t want to do any of that,” so she moved to the United States “where she really discovered herself as an artist,” Houllahan said.

After many years of pushing social and cultural boundaries abroad, Kusama has since moved back to Japan where she is an outspoken advocate for both mental health and art’s role in helping with her own such struggles.

Stylistically, Kusama’s output is considered to be part of the pop-art movement and is known for using bright colors and lots of repeating dotted-patterns. “She basically paints infinite dots, the idea behind her art is infinity,” Houllahan noted. “And the idea of using art for therapy certainly resonates with me, I really believe that it has a powerful use in mental well-being.”

This Saturday’s art lesson will guide participants through creating an original drawing similar in style to Kusama’s work. Houllahan plans to address various elements and principles used including color theory. She said the purpose is for each individual to then create their own piece of art as a form of personal expression, while giving them the support and “tools to be successful with this style of art.”

Houllahan said she “loves teaching” about Kusama and her work because it involves striking colors and appearances, plus a message of personal resilience. “She really overcame social and cultural boundaries to just be herself,” and “it’s a fascinating and very empowering story,” Houllahan added.

Lisa Hernandez, who founded the MLT ARC and is also in the PTO, said she hopes this weekend’s event will provide people in the community with an opportunity to connect with others while learning about Kusama’s art, perspective and celebrating “the value she brings.”

“When we learn about the experience and talents of those from other cultures, prejudices against their gender, nationality, culture, race can be challenged,” Hernandez said. “And also, creativity is a form of resistance. It is a gift to give ourselves time and space to open our mind to imperfection, risk, joy within the process, and think bigger than the limits of reality set by our society.”

Organizers recommend that participants have some basic art supply items from a wide variety of possibilities. Surfaces suggested to create a picture on encompass various types of common household papers, cardboard or wood. Ideas for potential marking tools to use include pencils, pens, crayons, markers and paints.

Houllahan noted that just having a pencil and something to draw on will work fine but she felt that due to the style of Kusama’s art it is a good idea to have “something dark” for creating outlines and also “something to add color with.” She said that when previously teaching a similar lesson to students colored pencils, markers and pens were used.

So that the lesson is easily accessible to the community, the organizers are even offering help for obtaining art tools beforehand on the event’s social media page.

This Saturday’s event is open to people of all ages and the materials presented will take that into account. There will also be moderators to ensure the online lesson provides a safe space for both learning and artistic expression. Houllahan anticipated the class will take approximately two hours and participants won’t be pressured or required to appear personally by video or present their artwork created.

“I want people to feel like they are comfortable and safe with who they are and how they share,” she said.

More information about the March 27 community art lesson and how to participate can be viewed here.

— By Nathan Blackwell


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