artSPARK Creative Studio is a space to explore ideas and processes in a variety of art media--Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Sculpture, Collage, Fiber Arts, and more! We emphasize CREATIVITY, IMAGINATION, INSPIRATION, IDEAS, PROCESS, PLAY, CHOICES, INNOVATION, AND SELF-EXPRESSION! The artwork produced here is unique to the artist, showcasing each student's creative ideas, not just those of the instructor. We believe creativity blossoms when everyone can express their unique view of the world and is offered an individualized approach. The instructor is there to guide and provide knowledge of techniques, fundamentals, artists, art history, and art appreciation. We do not promote "cookie-cutter" art or encourage replicating others' art. We do encourage practicing 21st century skills like CRITICAL THINKING, COMMUNICATION, COLLABORATION, RISK TAKING, AND PROBLEM SOLVING--all vital to boosting self-esteem and future success in life. We are a Montessori, Reggio, and TAB (Teaching for Artistic Behavior) inspired studio.
We want to create a COMMUNITY of learners that value AUTHENTIC CREATIVITY, rooted in process-based art. We want to connect all ages in creative exploration no matter what art experience you may have. We have met people young (even Kindergarteners!) and old that were told they were not creative or good at art, and had lost confidence in their creative abilities (even outside the art room) ever since. We also know people who have lots of experience creating and practicing art techniques and skills, but want a supportive community and space to continue to fuel the fire. Then there are others who are great creative thinkers, but don't know much about technical skills and materials. And others who think they have "no creative bone in their body", but feel the urge to be a part of a creative community or deeply wish they were creative. We know that EVERYBODY has a natural, innate need to create in some way! It is part of the human experience. artSPARK is a place for ALL of you!
No matter your age, ability, or experience, this is truly a place to grow, learn, share, and allow your soul to shine a little brighter.
We strive to create an inviting, non-judgmental environment. We believe that kindness, patience and mindfulness set the foundation for the best learning. We are a Montessori and TAB (Teaching for Artistic Behavior) inspired studio. It also has elements of a Reggio environment with its process-based approach and focus on each student as a unique individual.
We met while Andrea was teaching art at a Montessori school in Littleton, CO. Michele was a new parent at the school and with her extensive art background, immediately inquired about volunteer opportunities in the art room. We instantly connected about art, teaching and more. That same year Andrea was expecting her first child. She decided to teach part-time after her baby was born and knew it would be a natural fit for Michele to job share with her. Before Andrea could even finishing asking Michele if she'd be interested, she excitedly chimed in with, "I thought you'd never ask!"
Six years later, we had created a powerful partnership, and a shared philosophy about teaching and art education that we want to bring to the larger community. Come say hello and see what we're about!
Co-owner and Teacher
Growing up in Western NY, I spent a lot of time drawing and painting, and art class was always my favorite. I remember my high school art teacher suggesting that I become an art teacher. I responded with an eye roll and something like “Never!” After High School I enrolled in a graphic design program and after one year I decided that although I enjoyed graphic design, it was not my future career. I then realized that I could actually combine my love of art and children into a job, and decided that becoming an art teacher was not such a bad idea after all!
I received a Bachelors in Fine Arts from State University of New York at Oswego in 1991 and went on to get a Masters in Art Education from Rochester Institute of Technology in 1992. I spent the next two years substitute teaching until I landed my first job, teaching middle and high school art, at St. Luke’s School in New Canaan, CT. It was a wonderful experience for two years, but I had a strong desire to travel and see the world. So I spent the next three years teaching English as a Second Language, to children and adults, and traveling throughout Europe and South East Asia. In 2000 I returned to the States and moved to California where I was a Montessori Teacher Assistant at the Chinese American School in San Francisco. This experience in a Montessori classroom was eye opening and began a shift in my teaching towards recognizing the capabilities in my students and their intrinsic desire to be independent and self sufficient.
I then went on to teach both Art and ESL at the International School of the Peninsula in Palo Alto, California. After two years there, I moved to Colorado and started teaching art at St. Mary’s Academy in Englewood. During my four years at SMA I got married, became pregnant with my first child, and then decided to leave SMA to stay at home with my son. When my son was one, I started teaching art to toddlers and preschoolers at the Ridge Rec Center and it was through this experience that I learned what art education should really be about - experimenting, play, and fun! When I saw how much joy art materials brought to little people, I wondered at what point and why that went away for so many people as they got older. That's when I realized that I had been part of the problem. I had spent the first part of my career teaching my students how to make art that I liked, fit into the standards of art education and looked ‘pretty’. But I never gave them a chance to fully experiment with materials, problem solve, or express themselves. It then became my mission to figure out a better way to instill a love of making and appreciating art that lasted a lifetime.
When my youngest son was two, I started teaching art part-time at Montessori Peaks Academy. When Andrea introduced me to the Teaching for Artistic Behavior methodology, it was an ‘ah-ha’ moment for me! It was complete validation that other art teachers were also feeling the same way and had discovered and implemented a ‘better way’. My experience teaching at MPA gave me the opportunity to co-facilitate an art room where students could explore their own ideas, and develop into confident, creative thinkers and problem solvers. It wasn’t always about what pretty pictures the kids could leave with every day, but more about what mistakes were made and what was learned through the process of experimenting. Most importantly, it was the joy and pride the students felt because they were able to create something from their own ideas. I am looking forward to guiding more students as they become more confident and discover their inner artist and talents at artSPARK Creative Studio. To become a business owner feels like the next natural step in my creative career and another adventure to learn and grow from.
Co-Owner and Teacher
I have been drawn to artistic environments and making art my entire life, but have always had a hard time creating ideas that come completely from me. It was easy to rely on others to tell me what to create and I had many teachers that taught in a way that provided ideas to the point where I didn't need to draw much from personal inspiration. After college when no one was telling me what to create or giving me an assignment I was at a loss. How do I generate my own ideas? Where do I start? Are my own ideas good enough? I now see how this inspired my path as I grew in my art teaching career.
My passion for being an art teacher began when a college professor, my senior year, suggested I join her sophomore class and teach art to an inner city elementary school every week that had no art program. It instantly lit a spark in me and I was hooked. From there I took every opportunity to learn about teaching art to kids. I love to research, see what's been done, and seek out new ways of doing things. For many years I taught like most people think of art classes being taught--project-based and teacher-directed with a pretty result in the end. Over time I noticed kids yearning for a moment in art class to tinker around, find scraps of things and experiment with something that inspired them. This was always reserved for "open art" after they finished a project. I began to realize that creativity was being killed in students that weren't allowed the freedom to make their own ideas. Many didn't care about the idea I wanted them to make because it was my idea, not theirs. It often resulted in art that wasn't well-made or art that was very static and impersonal. And art that all looked pretty much the same when hung together in the hallway. Their heart wasn't in it. They were just following directions. With Michele's help we transformed our elementary school art room to a place where ideas and curiosity breathe life into every artistic attempt and piece of work.
I believe authentic creativity (that which comes from the student and their view of the world), along with the freedom to make choices in a supportive environment is critical to true artistic expression and future success in life. I am overjoyed to be able to design and create a studio environment with Michele that brings this way of thinking and making to the larger community. I am still learning and want to continue to grow with anyone who wants to join in!
I graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2000 with a BFA in Industrial Design. I also have a Masters in Education with a focus on Teaching Through the Arts from Lesley University. Instead of seeking a design job after college, I took a year of adventure to become a volunteer teacher in Lumberton, NM near the Jicarilla Apache reservation. There I met my future husband and decided to stay two years, and in 2002 moved to Denver, CO. I quickly found my first full-time art teaching job at Montessori Peaks Academy and taught there for 14 years. Through this time I got married and now have two boys who keep me active and continue to broaden my perspective on teaching. While working in schools, day cares, after care programs, and summer camps, the majority of my teaching has been directly with art, but I've also been an elementary classroom teacher and helped design summer program curriculum. I look forward to where this studio business experience will lead me and who I will meet along the way!