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South Salt Lake Journal

Creative art for life: SSL art class inspires and creates

Nov 30, 2023 01:51PM ● By Jesse M. Gonzalez

Maddie Michael gets ready to teach one of her favorite passions at the Columbus Center in South Salt Lake. (Photo by Jesse M. Gonzalez/City Journals)

Creative Arts for Life, a South Salt Lake organization, hosts art classes on select Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Columbus Community Center. The classes are taught by Maddie Michael, a local artist and photographer from Holladay who now lives in the downtown area. Maddie has been teaching art for the last six years and feels a deep connection to the craft and environment. 

“I started teaching and I loved it, and I do all ages from five years old to a hundred years old. All ages, all different techniques, different mediums, painting, sketching, fabrics, sewing, some sculpting with clay; kind of everything,” said Michael.

The classes, which can range anywhere from six to 30 people, teach both novice and experienced artists the fundamentals and the basics of art, leaving a healthy impact for the local community.

“How I teach is: I’m here to give the layout of everything, and I really want to get people to pick up on their curiosity, especially as we get older we kind of lose that curiosity or that ability to play and I feel like art really brings that to all human beings,” said Michael. 

“Also, it’s gaining confidence because you have to let go of perfectionism, and so breaking that down into ‘Let’s just see what happens,’ ‘I’m new at this,’ ‘Let’s see if I can build on my skills.’ It’s healing. People come when they’re in a hard spot in life. Art is important to have.”

Donna Stout, a local woman from Salt Lake City, having spent her whole life doing art, decided to take her first class at the South Salt Lake Community Center.

“I try everything. I do everything,” said Donna Stout, waiting for the class to begin and admiring the collection of pencils and other sketching devices given to the students. “In fact, I just had a gallery show this summer at the Sprague Library. I had this really cool art teacher who told me to get some gumption and get out there and show my stuff and I did, and it was amazing. I wish I would have done it years earlier.” 

On her free time, Stout has been working on a more modern form of art called neurographic art, which was originally designed in 2014 by Russian psychologist and architect, Pavel Piskarov. “I had watercolor and I had neurographic which is a new thing I have been doing a lot of. I did it and won first place at the fair this past year. It was called ‘Bobbing for Apples,’” said Stout, who is also a fan of classic artists like Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet. 

The class for that evening consisted of learning the skills and basics of drawing, from value, pressure, textures and building up their newly learned skills to create portraits and landscapes. “It’s finding the confidence of using a pencil and what you can do with it,” said Michael, an admirer of Georgia O’Keeffe.

“We’re all creative if you think about it. Even if you’re driving down the street and you think of a new way to get home because there’s traffic—that’s a creative thought. You’re gearing your thoughts into a different way of thinking,” Michael said. “How do we want to use our artistic skills? How do you want to be curious?”

South Salt Lake is full of an artistic spirit, as art can be seen throughout the city, whether it’s a drawing class at the Community Center or the art mural off of South West Temple Street, creatives can find a place to hone in and gain inspiration for their outlet.

Donna Stout has big plans to advance in her artistic endeavors and wellbeing. “I would like to put my art into some shows. I really enjoyed that this summer. It was like a big family reunion, because I had people from my past come and new people come to see my art and the thing that really moved me the most was how happy they were to get a piece of my art,” said Stout.

“You never know what you can do, so just do it. Don’t tell yourself that you can’t do it, just say that you haven’t learned it yet. Don’t ever limit yourself and say, ‘Oh, I’m not an artist!’ How do you know until you’ve tried?” Maddie Michael said.

“I read a thing—I can’t remember—I think it might have been on Pinterest—there was an artist that was saying: ‘Anyone can be an artist, they just have to believe in themselves,’” said Stout. “And I’m like, ‘That’s what I’m going to tell people.’”