NEW PALESTINE — The one lesson that has stuck with Janet Hanley’s art students more than anything:
“It’s just paint.”
As valuable to life as it is to canvas, Hanley’s students say now is the time for that lesson to be spread to more students. They’re hoping Hanley’s dream of opening an arts and crafts hub in New Palestine becomes a reality.
Hanley, 47, launched a campaign on kickstarter.com to open Art and Other Things, a business that would bring artists together to teach and market their talents.
“I want it to be … not just a place to teach, but a place for creative people to get together because you want to feed off of each other,” Hanley said.
A rural Hancock County resident, Hanley has been teaching classes at New Palestine Christian Church for four years. She hopes to launch an art studio and gallery in the New Palestine Plaza, at the site of the former 24 Hour Gym and Fitness.
Fairly new to painting herself – she discovered her talent around 2007 – Hanley said art is something she never knew she had a knack for. These days, she’s winning competitions, and she hopes to encourage others to give it a try.
What’s impressed Hanley’s students most has been her patient demeanor, letting them know that painting can be fun and therapeutic, and it’s OK to make a mistake.
“She just relaxes you and keeps saying, ‘It’s just paint,’” said Suzanne McCarty.
Painting an impressionist meadow landscape last week, McCarty said Hanley’s teaching has been uplifting, and she hopes her teacher can see her dream become a reality.
“I just think it’s Janet’s time, and she’s got enough support,” McCarty said. “It’s going to be like that snowball down the hill. It’s going to gain momentum.”
Linda Popp said Hanley’s encouragement has helped her find joy in art. She’s learned she doesn’t have to worry about mistakes too much.
“It’s like, ‘I’m an artist! I can do that!’ ” Popp said.
Hanley, a married mother of five and grandmother of three, is originally from Michigan and has lived in Indiana since 2001. A self-proclaimed “science geek,” Hanley said she was surprised to discover a passion for art.
Hanley spent years as a pharmaceutical laboratory technician. She had fallen in love with science in high school; art had been cut from the school’s budget, so she had little opportunity to give it a try.
While attending church in New Palestine, Hanley was inspired by a sermon about gifts.
“I said, ‘God, show me what my gifts are, because I have no clue,’” Hanley said.
She began dreaming about painting, and soon it engrossed her thoughts during the day. She remembers being terrified to touch a paint brush, but once she did, “it was so cool.” That year, Hanley won awards in the beginner’s category at the Riley Festival art show, and the following year, she won top honors in the intermediate category.
“It never really dawned on me to use the other side of my brain,” Hanley said.
A fan of portraits, animals and flowers, Hanley has painted many subjects in watercolor, acrylic and oil. She also dabbles in pottery, needle work, knitting and crocheting.
Hanley not only teaches art at her church, but she picks up on new types of crafts from other guest teachers at the church.
It’s that type of creative environment Hanley hopes to expand on in her own space. While she’s grateful for her church ties, she says more people might be open to trying art lessons in a neutral location.
A collaborative art studio, she said, would give her more room to teach and put her pieces on display, and she’s hopeful others join in. Art and Other Things could also showcase talent by high school students, which Hanley said would give them the encouragement she never had as a youth.
But such an idea needs financial backing. Hanley is hoping to raise $7,000 on kickstarter.com, a crowd-funding website where people can pledge money to a creative idea.
So far, $335 has been pledged. Hanley hopes to meet her goal by Aug. 8; if she doesn’t reach her deadline, she doesn’t get any of the pledges from Kickstarter.
Money would go toward the first month’s rent of the 3,600-square foot site, plus signage, tables and chairs, and fixtures for artists to hang their works.
Hanley hopes her Internet campaign generates interest and buy-in for the business. Still, she maintains the same adage she gives her students: she’ll keep plugging away on her dream, even if she doesn’t reach her goal this time around.
After all, it’s just paint.
TO GET INVOLVED:
A Kickstarter campaign is under way through Aug. 8. Search for “Art and Other Things” at kickstarter.com for details on funding levels and how to donate.