Professional Practice

Collecting Art in your Personal Life (Ep. 107)

You never know when inspiration will strike, especially when it comes to art. In today’s episode, Nic discusses the importance of collecting art and how art can improve your surroundings. Listen as she discusses whom she reaches out to and why, what she’s looking for in the art she collects, and how her collection makes her a better teacher. Full episode transcript below.

Resources and Links

Nic Hahn:
In 2016, I brought my family together over a holiday break and we decided to make a stop motion animation together as a family. My kids totally loved it, and my husband played along, which I was lucky for, and what we discovered is our New Year’s resolutions or our goals for the next year. My daughter at the time decided that she was going to try not to be first for everything. My son was going to try not to interrupt as much. My husband decided that he was going to choose kind. And I declared that I was going to start collecting artwork from other artists.

Now, several years later, I am still collecting art for something that I call the Welcome Wall. We’re going to talk about the Welcome Wall, why it’s important to collect art, and how you can go about it in your own life. This is Nic Hahn and this is Everyday Art Room.

I’m the type of person that can visualize ahead of time what I want in the end. Sometimes I can’t fully communicate that to other people, but for the most part, when I think of something, I can see the end result before I even began. Now, in this case, collecting art was … It was no different. I definitely could see the end result before I even started collecting.

What I decided is that I needed something uniform that I could ask artists to create on and I would display them as you would see in a gallery or in an art museum. I wanted the name tag underneath it and I want them to make sure that it looked very professional and very celebrated.

So the first thing that I did was choose the wall where the art was going to be displayed. I have this front room that really for our family doesn’t do a lot. We have a living room and then this front room. I don’t know. Some people must use it for an office space or … I don’t know what this room is supposed to be for. So instead of leaving it empty and cold, I decided to warm it up with art. This is the first thing that people see when they walk into my house. I decided to call it the Welcome Wall because of that.

So on this Welcome Wall, I decided that we were going to have a uniformed look to all of the artwork, but I still want to see artwork from the artists that I was collecting from in their style. So I narrowed it down to kind of what I wanted to unify it. One thing was the size. So what we started by doing is we went into the shop, we as in my husband and I, went into his tech ed shop and we cut up some boards so that they were eight by eight on Masonite board, and then we created a frame to go underneath it. So we created these eight by eight unified wooden canvases basically. And I had my husband teach me how to do that. So all of these frames I made myself, which I’m really proud of.

Then, once I had the uniform shape, I decided to make 30 of them. This would be a good way to get started and a goal for all the artwork that I wanted to collect over the next several years. So now I have a uniform size, I have a space that I’m going to place it on, and now I have to figure out how all these different artists and all these different subject matters and methods that I’m going to collect, how they’re going to be United. So I actually had this on a neon green wall. I know that sounds terrible, but it is the only spice of color in my house. I have gray walls and then this one pop up color of green.

I should take that back. I do have a door. My front door is a beautiful blue, like a really beautiful Indigo blue. So I decided that blue would be the accent color that I would want in every single piece. So when I’d approach an artist, I’m telling them, “I need an eight by eight piece of artwork. It can either be flat or painted on my provided wooden canvas.” If they create it flat, then I put it onto the canvas. I need blue in it and I need it within X amount of dollars.

So I’ve done a couple of different things as I progress through this Welcome Wall project, and to begin with, what I did was a trade with artists. So I would approach them and say, “Hey, would you like to do an artist trade with me? I’ll make a piece of artwork. You make me one and we’ll send it to each other.” Majority of the time, at least at the beginning, artists were all about this. It was mostly friends that I was approaching. Throughout the years I’ve discovered that it’s interesting to collect art from others, but very stressful for me to create art randomly for another person.

So rather than creating a piece of artwork unless they like my style or they want something specific, I’ve decided to put a budget on the artwork that I’m collecting. So each piece I have paid a different amount for and it’s all in negotiation with the actual artist.

So let’s just recap. I came up with a vision. I just designated a space in my home. I created a uniform shape that would unite them as well as a uniform color. And I put a budget on it. So now I’m ready to start collecting art.

Now I’m going to go into who I actually collected the artwork from thus far. This is going to continue to grow in my house definitely, but in 2016 when I actually started this, I contacted four teachers that I was connected to on social media and at that time that was Twitter for me and strictly Twitter. These artists were people that I was collaborating with on art education base, but they were also sharing their artwork in their own personal lives on social media. And that’s how I was prompted to ask these particular artists.

So I started out by contacting Tery Castagiovanni. You might know her actually from the rainbow sky and dragonflies. That is her Instagram account. She’s also on Twitter as well. I saw that she was creating an amazing wall in her house of these beautiful flowers. So she was one that I contacted right away, as well as Steph Brooks was kind of working on some organic shapes in watercolor at the time and I thought they were really interesting. Tim Needles is an artist from New York who I completely appreciate his brain. He’s so creative. So I asked him. And then my buddy Don Massey. You have definitely heard me talk about him before. Shine Brite Zamorano, he is a friend of mine and I just wanted a piece of his artwork. Plus he’s a pretty darn good artist.

So these were the four, first four people that I asked to trade with and/or paid for an artwork. and this is how I started. I just started with other art teachers, but I liked the idea that they were coming to my home from different parts of the world. Donna’s from California all the way to New York and Stephanie and Tery are somewhere in between.

Because of this, I have met all of these people in some way or another, maybe through NAEA or some other outlets. I feel like I have a connection with them, and they were the first four people that I placed on my wall.

Then I decided, “Well, that was fun, but let’s get some local artists as well.” So I contacted Sue Davies and Bill Hammer, who are coworkers of mine at ISD 728. Now Sue actually just retired this year to kind of pursue her artwork. She is doing such an amazing job. She created this beautiful animal. It’s a raven. And then Bill, he actually taught my kids, my personal children. So I would have them come home and teach me the lesson that they learned in class. And actually I was learning how to teach better because of Bill. Bill’s work is absolutely treasured by my family because it was their teacher that created that. So I love having those two art teachers on my wall as well.

There is another piece. It is by a mosaicist from Minneapolis named Lisa Arnolds. She was a visiting artist in my school and I decided that her work would be important to have on my wall because of our friendship. You can see most of these people so far are people that I have connected to in my past.

Another one from a long time ago was Bridgette Bruno. She is an art teacher from Wisconsin as well. We did our undergrad together and we both married tech ed teachers, so you know that bonds a person for life I think. But really during our undergrad, her concentration was on painting and she did these amazing large-format paintings of people swimming under the water. They were so beautiful and abstract, and I needed a piece from her. After contacting her, she agreed to create a piece for my wall as well.

Okay. Listen to the people that I’ve just mentioned. They’re people from my past, as well as people that I connected to socially on social media. This is how I began to choose the artworks that I was bringing in. It was pretty exciting and now I have eight pieces of artwork hanging up on my wall. As I described, it is the artwork with the nameplate rate under it, trying to make it look really important.

Now before I go any farther with the artists that I have on my wall, I want to explain that I am sharing these artists to kind of give you the idea of the progression of how I collected the artwork, but also I don’t want you to freak out and say, “Oh, but who are these artists. I need to see their work.” I will provide all of that for you in the resources of this podcast, as well as on my blog

Okay, now let’s get back into it. I then started reaching out to people that were far away. As you know, I love my artist’s trading cards and I love providing that global aspect. And because of my artists trading cards, I know the most beautiful art teacher in Italy, Miriam Paternoster. She is now basically focusing on her ceramic artwork from what I can see on Instagram. She’s also an art teacher. She always participates in the artist trading card and she is my rock when it comes to connecting with teachers in Italy. She does an amazing job. So Miriam a created a piece of artwork. We actually traded.

And then you Yvonne Arpino. I’m going to go with Yvonne Arpino. She is from Perth, Australia. And I just loved what she was doing as well on Instagram. She has an Instagram that is Redeeming Art is the name of hers. And I believe that Yvonne creates her artwork because it just feeds her soul. So her piece was important to have on my wall because you can just see the soul in it. It was created from her heart. It’s not her job. It’s just what she does to fill her soul. So I loved having that on my wall as well.

Then there was this amazing experience that I had when I went to a Seattle NAEA convention. I had, I believe I had already collected this piece of artwork or reached out to a woman named Kara. I think is how you say her last name, A-I-N-A. She’s a Canadian who actually lives in Utah. She is a mom of at least four kids and a teacher, and she is an amazing, beautiful person and artist. Her artwork just spoke to me and I reached out to her and she was willing to create a Welcome Wall piece for me.

As I was talking to Kara, this other woman, Shannon Dickie, walked up and said, “Wait a minute, don’t I know you?” She said, “I think you reached out to me a while back asking me to do a piece of artwork for you, a commission.” And I looked at her and here I am talking to someone who I have collected art from and another artist has now approached me and she said, “You kind of dropped the ball. Like I am willing to do that for you. But I hadn’t heard from you.” Oh my gosh. It was like, it was the universe putting us together for sure.

So I then continued my conversation with Shannon Dickie, who is from Toronto. She created this amazing piece of my son actually because it was commissioned. I was able to give her a picture of my son and she has this way of blurring the image. Oh gosh. It is stunning. It is really, really beautiful.

So that was how we collected the next few pieces. And then I decided to take a big, big leap. So there were artists, of course on Instagram, contemporary artists that create every day that I admire on Instagram all the time. You guys, I’m sure do the same thing. One person is Clare Youngs. You probably know her. She is a UK artist from the United Kingdom. She is an illustrator and a collage artist. She creates her own designs and then cuts up her pieces to make animals in most cases.

I reached out to her thinking there is no way that she is going to make a commission for me. This woman is too well known and I’m sure this is a long shot, but I asked anyway. I connected with her on Instagram in a private message and I asked her if she would commission a work for me. I told her I liked her style and she got to pick, but I just needed some blue in it. And she said, “Absolutely, but I need you to pick an animal.” I was blown away. I gave her the amount that I was willing to pay and she agreed to it. Then I asked my daughter to choose an animal that she might want to see on our wall. She chose a bear and we are now the owners of a Clare Youngs. That’s a big deal for me.

So that gave me a little bit more encouragement to start reaching out to other artists, practicing artists, contemporary artists such as Katrina Berg who also works in Utah and then also Jessie Yetavee. She is an American living in Paris. So Katrina has this beautiful technique of using paint palettes I believe or like knives, paint knives, palette knives that she puts this thick cake of art paint on the canvas and then carves back into it to give some detail. Her colors are really yummy, just yummy pieces.

And Jessie, you actually might have seen her artwork if you have recently gone to Target because her artwork is displayed on planners for the next school year, the 2019-20 school year. Pretty cool. Anyways, proud to say I have a piece of artwork from both of them.

I mentioned that my daughter chose the subject matter for Clare Youngs’ work. I also had my son choose the artwork or the subject matter for Katrina Berg. He chose a mixer because our family likes to cook together. And as you can hear me say, my kids are involved, my husband’s involved. And the reason that I get them involved is so that they have ownership and love for the artwork hanging in our house as well. And these are going to be heirlooms as well. These are things that I will definitely pass down to whoever wants them in the future.

Finally, I want to talk about the four artists that I have to remain to put up on my wall. I have the artwork collected, but I was waiting for this balance of these four pieces to come in. Casey Kemper is an artist from Wisconsin and so is Sarah. Actually, you probably know her as Art Room Glitter Fairy. And she has been or will be on the podcast very soon being interviewed for the artwork that she creates. Both of these people are Wisconsin art teachers and people that I met at the Wisconsin Art Education Association Convention a couple of years ago. I love their work, follow them on Instagram. We have a relationship. And so I asked for them to create a piece for the wall.

Then I contacted this woman named Yaz Gety or Gate I guess. Yaz Gate is from Melbourne. And if you are following me on Instagram, you know that I recently visited Australia. And what I did prior was I investigated the artists that live in Melbourne area. I ran into Yaz’s artwork and fell in love with it. And I don’t think it was by accident. I truly believe the universe brought us together because she is now a soul sister of mine. You will be hearing from her on this podcast in the near future. She has a lot to share with the art education world.

She is an Australian, but her background, her history is Filipino and so her art derives from her kind of trying to find that portion of herself through her art. So you see some plants, some flowers from the Philippines, and she also uses bright colors that derived from the foods in that culture. I have a piece of her artwork, and like I said, it’s something really special to me because not only did I collect it all the way from Australia, but I also met this beautiful individual and we will have a relationship for the rest of our lives for sure.

Susan Terell is a ceramicist that I met on a Minnesota tour, and she had some amazing work. I actually bought a piece right away, but then I asked the next day, I went back an hour and I talked to her just to see if she would create something kind of stylized for this wall. She agreed. I am patiently waiting for her artwork, and once I get hers, I’ll put on the final four that will kind of finish out the wall for right now.

Notice, I said for right now. Guys, I’m not done collecting art. This has become an addiction and also something that I am known for. When my family comes to visit my house, when my friends come to visit my house, they automatically go and admire the Welcome Wall. They want to see what’s new. They want to hear the stories behind it. It is a conversation piece. It is something that I am proud to have in my house.

When you put things on your wall, think about are you going to love it for the rest of your life or for a period of time? Is it handmade? Is it from something that is meaningful to you? If you start surrounding yourself, decorating your home in ways that are meaningful, you’re going to create a happier environment for yourself. Those are just some of the reasons and the methods of how to go about collecting your own art.

The last thing that I want to mention to you is to not be afraid. Don’t be afraid to contact artists, contact people. The worst you can hear is no. Big deal. Then you move on to someone else. Don’t let that scare you. Go ahead and ask and support the artists in your life.

As I mentioned already in this podcast, but just as a reminder, the pictures of the artwork and the artists themselves, this will all be listed in the resources down below, as well as on my blog,

The Art of Education University is always our priority here, is to make sure that art teachers have the resources that they need. If you are looking for resources for your classroom, go ahead and check out the magazine, The Art of Ed Magazine. There are so many articles on any subject that you could imagine, as well as some great printout resources that you can use in your classroom.

I personally am a member of PRO, which I love because I have professional development on a regular basis, but within PRO, there are so many printable resources that I just print out and use in my classroom the very next day. So two great resources, including the resources in this podcast. Thank you so much for listening. We will chat with you next week.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.