Recently, I sat down with renowned journalist for The Huffington Post, Laura Cococcia. Laura had the courage to reignite her artistic flame through art classes at The Art Studio NY after not having picked up a paintbrush in, well, a long time. She then picked my brain, ART and soul, and her interview with me is published in The Huffington Post (and for your convenience, you may scroll down and have a read right here!). I was surprised at how long it took me to respond to her questions about my life as an artist and Founder of The Art Studio NY (she sent them in January, I responded in May!). Clearly, it was time for me to reassess why I do what I do, why art continues to be a driving factor in my life, and what really inspires me, and challenges me, today. I needed time to turn off my artistic autopilot to do some creative soul searching of my own.
What inspires me? How have I remained artistic after all of these years? Why did I open The Art Studio NY nearly 10 years ago? What challenges me the most, and where do I see TASNY going in the future?
On Remaining Artistic: An Interview With The Art Studio NY’s Rebecca Schweiger
“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
When is the last time you painted, wrote a poem, played the piano? For too many of us, the answer is, “I don’t remember.” But why don’t we engage in the creative activities we enjoyed so much as kids? Painting isn’t any less relaxing just because you have a college degree, and singing loudly isn’t any less fun because you own a home, or wear a suit to work, or pay your bills on time. What changes, I think, is that as we get older we let our inner critics get the better of us rather than letting our inner artist loose to create uninhibitedly.
I recently started painting again with Rebecca Schweiger, founder at The Art Studio NY. It’s been an interesting experience — I have never been “artistic” in the traditional visual sense, but thought I’d try it out as an experiment of my own talents. My inner critic harshly judged by work, but Rebecca pointed out the positive and unique aspects of the painting. After she was done, I felt a bit more confident. Even at my age.
As I recently discussed Rebecca, we adults sometimes lack the faith in our innate abilities as humans to be creative, and it’s not exactly good for us. The fact of the matter is that artistic expression and creativity can help us to better problem solve and communicate more freely in our personal and professional lives alike.
In the interview, Rebecca spoke to me about how art has the ability to heal us, both physically and mentally, and how it can even make us more relaxed. She also discussed how The Art Studio NY came about, and the charitable role she’s carved out for it.
What inspired you to start a career in art?
I have always gravitated towards creativity, and I’ve had a lifelong love affair with artistic expression. The freedom and self-empowerment I experience when I am creatively expressing myself has changed my life in so many ways. Art has always been an outlet for me that is therapeutic, uplifting and joyful. When I make art, everything else disappears, and I get lost in this magical creative world of art that stems from inside of me. Artistic self-expression is nourishing food for the soul. Authentically expressing myself through art is a profoundly fulfilling experience for me.
What can art teach us about expressing what it’s like to live the human experience? Do you believe art can make us feel whole, or connect us as humans?
We all have the need to connect to others through sharing our personal life experiences. There are many experiences in life that we just can’t express verbally, but we still need to express them nonetheless. Joys, sorrows, unanswered questions, longings, dissatisfaction, struggle, hopes, dreams, stress, excitement… everything is welcome in art. No one and nothing is exempt from the benefits that art brings to life.
How did you come to found The Art Studio NY? Why did you feel the need to help people through art?
I once taught a unique art class at a local nursing home in Massachusetts. The residents there were very old and very sick. If I could define the word transformation in the dictionary, I would post a photo of what happened in my art class at the nursing home! It was miraculous how quickly the depressing environment transformed to inspiring, all due the power of art and a teacher who wanted to make a difference through art. While teaching my hands-on art project, the room came to life with smiles, laughter, conversation, eye contact and nurturing human connection.
I felt a true calling to inspire and uplift others through the beneficial treasure chest art offers (increased relaxation, memory recall, increased human connection, greater satisfaction, fulfillment, stress relief, and so on). Thus, I gave birth to The Art Studio NY in 2004, and it has grown like a weed ever since. The fundamental thought behind The Art Studio is that every single person is creative. When provided with a loving, nurturing and safe environment, magic happens. We help bring out the best in people through artistic creativity.
What’s the most challenging thing about your career? How does The Art Studio NY overcome perceptions about art and what it is and who should participate in it?
There is enormous fear around art. People feel they can’t “do” it, fear they will get it “wrong,” or that it won’t “look good,” that they won’t be “good enough,” or perhaps they are afraid of what might come out when they actually give themselves permission to let themselves go with a paintbrush. I founded The Art Studio NY in order to share the positive benefits of artistic expression while simultaneously overcoming and dispelling the fears, challenges and misconceptions that threaten the creative spirit. Creativity is a powerful force that lives within all of us, it is a tool everyone can access. Often, it is creativity that leads to the world’s most innovative changes that make this world a better place. In our society, creativity is not recognized as the superpower it truly is, art is not being utilized to its potential. My goal is to reignite the power of creativity amongst the masses.
How would you like to see the next level of the Studio evolve?
The Art Studio NY has been very active in giving back to our local and global community, and I want our community efforts to grow even more. As an art studio, we provide and donate art classes, art supplies and actual artwork to dozens of organizations on an ongoing basis. We partnered with Elizabeth’s Canvas, a Los Angeles-based non-profit that provides free art classes to cancer patients and survivors to prove that nothing can erase the creative spirit. We have participated in fundraising campaigns by giving scholarships and free art classes to over 50 local schools in New York City. After Hurricane Sandy, we donated a portion of our proceeds to hurricane relief efforts, and we ran clothing drives to gather and deliver needed supplies for hurricane victims. I see my role as a leader in the art world as both a great honor and a real responsibility. Art has the power to transform, heal and uplift, and I am dedicated to being a channel for just that.
To learn more about The Art Studio NY, or to sign up for a class, visit www.theartstudiony.com.
Follow Laura Cococcia on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lauracococcia
Artwork by Rebecca Schweiger, All rights reserved, copyright 2013.