MEET OUR TEAM

We started this studio as 2-woman show.  We didn't know how big or quickly it would grow, (we're still navigating those waters...) but we had an idea and kept building the dream. We want to bring you talented, experienced and dedicated people that align with artSPARK's values.  Basically we want the best for you and your kids while keeping true to the studio you have come to know and love.  You may see some new faces around, but I think you'll agree they are a great fit and add a fresh, creative perspective to the studio.  They have been working hard and already earning a great reputation. 

Sign up today and tell us what you think! 


Michele Hardesty

Co-Founder & Instructor 

Photo courtesy of Kristiina Craven Photography

Photo courtesy of Kristiina Craven Photography

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.


Andrea Rollins

Co-Founder & Instructor

Photo courtesy of Kristiina Craven Photography

Photo courtesy of Kristiina Craven Photography

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!


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Erin Gilroy

Lead Instructor for Summer Camps, Parties, and Classes

I am excited to bring my love of creativity, community, and environmental sustainability together.

After receiving my B.S in Art and Environmental Sustainability in my home town of Salem, MA, I made the cross country move to Denver. I have always felt compelled to commune directly with nature — be it under an aspen grove in the Rocky Mountains, or while enjoying a day at the beach. Any place wild and flowery is a constant source of creative inspiration for me.

My mediums of choice are fiber arts (felting, crochet, sewing, embroidery, etc.), printmaking, watercolor and mixed media, but I love all facets of art and creativity.  I love seeing that “light bulb” moment for kids, and adults, when they think of a creative idea or find that they actually CAN.  I also love how creativity so easily brings us together. I am passionate about being a guide at artSPARK to allow unique personalities and creative styles to shine.


Emily Milbauer

Birthday Party & Weekend Event Lead Instructor

From a young age, art and creativity have been defining parts of my personality. I was the kid who planned crafts to go with my birthday party themes and rarely finished art projects on time because I was completing the project in my own way. I went on to double major in Educational Studies and Art at Illinois Wesleyan University. While I have spent the years following college working in early childhood education, I have continued to create in many ways and share my creativity with my family, students, and coworkers daily. I have dabbled in a little of everything as techniques fit my ideas or needs, but tend to focus on fiber arts and mixed-media work. I am so excited to bring my passions for education and art together at artSPARK. 

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Grace Poggemeyer

Studio Assistant

I am an art education major at Metropolitan State University of Denver. I enjoy oil painting, watercolor, and drawing with graphite and ink. Being able to combine my love of working with children and my passion for art has been a dream come true at artSPARK!

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Kellie Fleming

Studio Assistant

I am a junior at Colorado State University majoring in Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in Early Childhood. I have a passion for supporting children’s ideas and helping them explore their creativity! Through artSPARK’s approach to teaching, I am able to combine my love for education and artistic expression. I have always enjoyed art, and I love helping others find their inner artist as well.