From whimsical window art to student-centered, inspired classes, Inspiration Art Academy founder and educator Cynthia Barnes adds festive magic and sparkle to Downtown Longmont, year-round.
It’s the holiday season, and Downtown Longmont is brimming with festive spirit. The sparkle owes to collective contributions from many…but a special nod goes to artist, educator, and founder of Inspiration Art Academy at 457 Main Street, Cynthia Barnes. From whimsical wintry window art throughout downtown to student-centered, inspired classes, Barnes weaves her heart and soul into efforts to add a little extra magic in our everyday world, year round.
An art therapist and artist as well as an art educator of 26 years, Barnes founded the art and sewing studio for children and teens in 2014. Inspiration Art Academy quickly established itself as an artistic haven. This is a place where all who enter are inspired to explore, learn, and develop skills while having fun. “Here, I get to be the very best teacher I can be—no grades, small classes. I can really teach every individual child exactly what they need at the moment, and it’s not just art. It’s learning to follow through on a big idea, start to finish; it’s thinking critically, problem-solving. It’s bringing out the best in yourself and making things better, no matter what you do.”
One step inside Barnes’ studio and you’ll feel an instant lift of bubbling creative energy. Every inch of the pack-out space--from bright, bold, and beautiful student artwork hung from the ceiling and walls to art supplies laid out on tables, bulging from drawers, and tucked in the Radio Flyer wagon gracing the entrance—beckons. “It’s a mess, but a purposeful one,” Barnes acknowledges. “Everything’s out. As an artist, if it’s not out, I don’t know I can use it. I want my students to get hands-on, move, explore. A kid can wander over to a back drawer and see this bright puff of blue. It gets incites curiosity, which leads them to this box of beautiful things they then create with. It works!”
Read More - Q&A:
LDDA: Your holiday window displays are gorgeous! Playful snowmen, jolly Santa, winter wonderlands. Tell us more about how they came about?
Cynthia: We have such a wonderful neighborhood. It is the best. One of my neighbors, Krista Koth, is Team Leader at 8z Real Estate. Her daughter has come to my camps, and we’ve gotten to know each other through that as well as being part of the downtown community. She invited me to paint her windows, which led to others asking about me. They’re not like my usual style when it comes to my personal art—they’ve been really fun.
LDDA: Talk about TAB. You brought it to Colorado; you’ve co-led the Annual “Teaching for Artistic Behaviors Conference Conference”, and you received the National Teaching for Artistic Behaviors Leadership Award in 2013. This is clearly a big passion of yours.
Cynthia: I embrace the art theory TAB, Teaching for Artistic Behaviors. It is a choice-based curriculum. It is what it sounds like—teaching the students "What do Artists do?" Artists express, observe, reflect, engage and persist, stretch and explore, envision and develop craft. I don’t expect all my students to be artists when they grow up. But whether you’re a plumber, a doctor, a writer…no matter what you choose to do, you’re going to need to be able to think creatively, think critically, problem solve and "think out of the box" from time to time.
LDDA: You taught in public education for 27 years. What inspired you to make the leap to running your own studio?
Cynthia: So many things! My schedule at the time was, I left the house before my kids got up, and I got home not long before it was time for them to go to bed. A lot was happening. I turned 50. My father passed away of Alzheimer’s, and my mother was diagnosed with it not long after. Before he passed, my father asked me, ‘when are you going to be an artist’? He’d always had faith in me and wanted me to pursue that goal. It was very powerful for me. Then one evening I was walking my dogs on Main Street, which I never do, and I saw the For Rent sign for the studio space, with the price named. I thought, I can do that. And I did! It feels like it was meant to be! So I continue teaching art which I love. I now teach sewing also, which is extra fun since it is different from my long experience with teaching art. And I am trying to 'Be an Artist' too! It is so greatly rewarding to be doing all these things.
LDDA: What makes this Downtown community so special?
Cynthia: It is truly a family—really. Everyone tries to promote each other. We refer each other all the time. We all support one another. We aren’t competitive. We are cooperative. It’s the best place to be. It’s awesome.
Find out more about Inspiration Art Academy, including art camps and after-school sewing classes, at http://inspirationartacademy.com/. Check back regularly for updates!