Art & Life

Always Learning: Playing and Embracing the Beginner's Mind

“In the Beginner’s Mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s there are few.”~Shunryu Suzuki

“Every child is an Artist. The problem is how to remain an Artist once we grow up.”~Pablo Picasso

Shoshin is a word from Zen Buddhism meaning “Beginner’s Mind”. It refers to having an attitude of curiosity, openness, eagerness and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would. I think of it like a young child playing. Their busy mind focusing and then getting lost in the moment, opening to the creativity and the flow. I truly believe in the benefits of staying curious and being a lifelong learner. Continuously becoming the student is a skill and practice in humility which helps make me a better teacher and better human. It’s hard to admit we don’t know all the answers but really, how can we?

It’s difficult to give up our preconceptions and our fears. To give up one’s control is both scary and liberating—this is learning. I will be taking classes myself for much of my time off from teaching this Summer. My first thought was to say “working holidays,” but I need to think of them as playing holidays. I need to strive to having an attitude of fun, to keeping my mind open for new possibilities…always to have the Beginner’s Mind. I hope to be as much of an example to my student’s and their loved ones as they are to me, to do the same in life and learning. To listen and not know everything. To see a different way or from a different perspective. To try something new or in a new way. Be curious, learn something and have fun this Summer!


The Importance of Accessable Art in Our Community

Mall Art Display.jpg

We have a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the creative work of PrairieArt Studio’s students and to enhance our community as well. We have been invited to display our artwork in the local Mall with an ongoing display as well as some pop up events for Halloween and at the Youth Department  of a local library.  The Mall display is in conjunction with their new hands on S.T.E.A.M. (Science, technology, engineering , arts and Math) play area which is also great for the community. I’ve written in the past of the many benefits that creating art provides (see these blogs) It turns out that even just  looking at art and going to a concert or play has enormous benefits too. The NEA did a study that found that “older adults” who attended cultural events like museum exhibitions, opera and the theater, reported more of both mental and physical health benefits than those that did not. Further, they found that those that just attended had similar levels of wellbeing to those that attended cultural events and created art themselves. (Herzig, 2017)

This access and exposure to art has even more of an impact in less advantaged communities and though wealthier neighborhoods have more access to cultural events it doesn’t mean there is a good amount of them to balance other pursuits. A two year study done by a department at the University of Pennsylvania has revealed a quantitative relationship between the presence of cultural resources in a neighborhood and key aspects of social well being, particularly in less advantaged neighborhoods.  The authors of the study write that “culture is no magic bullet” for broader social ills, but “cultural assets are part of a neighborhood ecology that promotes well being” (Kaplan, 2017)

Though our community offers many advantages it seems that the primary focus of time, importance, the most amount real estate and funds goes to sports. I have nothing against sports, they have many benefits too and being the mother of four, have gone to my share of soccer games, swimming, horse shows, karate, baseball. football, cross-country, track,  and Lacrosse games. My concern is that there should be more of a balance of exposure to and opportunities for creative and cultural pursuits as well, to help us raise more well rounded citizens that are active and can creatively problem solve as well. This may inspire the young (and old) to maybe see or think about something in a different way and see that there is a whole world beyond sports. Additionally , the arts can offer a great outlet for for the un-sporty type.  Sports, many times, can be more ex-clusive and the arts more inclusive. Art enhances  joy, confidence and self-esteem which (for dads still pining for that all-star or olympian) may encourage them to go out and try a sport in additon to doing art.

So go out and see some Art with your family, it’s fun and good for you!



Herzig, E. b. (2017, September 12). "Taking Your Grandparents to Museums Could Improve Their Health". Retrieved from

Kaplan, A. E. (2017, March 29). Retrieved from "New Study Links Art Access to Better Health, Safety, and Education in Lower-Income Neighborhoods".

Art, Life and Tending Your Garden

At this time of year, I am excited to get outside and garden.  Anticipating, planning and preparing for all of natures beauty. I love nature and also creating a beautiful garden, sometimes they are in harmony and at times those things are at odds. Many of you know we are blessed (or burdened, depending on the moment) with a fairly large property with a creek, lawns, woods and lots of wildlife. Today, as I filled a couple of wheel barrels full of weeds that I pulled (knowing there will be many more) and planted pounds of grass seed a thought struck me.  My husband and I spend a lot of time and energy planting and replanting things were we want them to grow and continuously removing them from the places we don’t want them.  So I am wondering is it “gardening “or a lesson in futility? If we surrender and just stop will they have to rescue us with chain saws and machetes, everything covered by a multitude of weeds, blackberry and grape vines, mulberry trees, garlic mustard, creeping Charlie and poison ivy?

I know there is a lesson in this somewhere but I am too exhausted from all the work to even think. Oh wait, I think I have it...We need to find balance in life and though sometimes doing art seems futile and a waste of time we need to listen to our innate need to create. We need to direct our energy towards these things and take the time to appreciate and celebrate the beauty around us, weed out the things that are not important or hinder us (maybe creating something that will endure even after we are gone) because life will just take over and engulf us. So maybe I’ll take a break and paint my garden now because by August I usually run out of steam, sit on the deck with an iced-tea and look forward to Fall and Winter, at least until January when I’m wishing for Spring, it’s all perspective I guess, Ah… another metaphor and lesson for art and life.