by MIKE CHAIKEN
Staci Lenart has had a lifelong love for art. And she’s well on her way to being an art teacher.
But it wasn’t until a chance opportunity a year ago that the Plainville resident realized there was any public interest in her creations.
About a year ago, Staci explained, a friend of hers who worked at the Starbucks on Queen Street in Southington called her. The coffee shop’s artist of the month had just bailed and left the store without any work for its walls.
The friend knew Staci—who works at a group home for developmentally disabled in Bristol— painted. She asked if Staci wanted to step in at the last moment and hang some of her pieces.
So, Staci pulled her work together and headed down to the coffee shop not knowing what to expect.
To her surprise, Stacy said, “I got tons of got tons of feedback (from that show).” People started emailing her about buying some of her work.
Given that experience, Staci said she set up a shop at etsy.com for her work. Again, to her surprise, she got a few emails from people about her work.Then, a couple of weeks ago, Raw Natural Artists, which has been mounting arts showcases at the Russian Lady in Hartford, called Staci from out of the blue. They wanted her to show at the July event. (“It was a great experience. I had so much fun.”)
Staci, who loves the idea of being an art teacher, said, “I never thought (having a career as a working artist selling paintings) was something that could really happen.”
“Those two experiences lit a candle under (me)… that I could do that.” Staci said it was a reality check that she could really market herself as a working artist.
Staci’s love for art has a long history, she explained in a recent interview.
Staci said she had been creating art since she was in elementary school. She was a student at Wheeler Elementary School in Plainville and every year she would put something up in the Plainville schools’ annual art show. “I would be so excited.”
“When I got older I realized this was my thing,” said Staci of art.
When she arrived at Plainville High School, Staci said she started to take advanced placement arts classes. That helped her get into Southern Connecticut State University to study arts education (she minored in psychology). She eventually landed at Central Connecticut State University, which paved her way to be an art teacher. (She graduated CCSU in May). And this fall, she starts student teaching in Griswold, Conn. where she will teach art to elementary school students before moving onto student teaching at a high school.
Asked about where inspiration comes for her work, Staci explained, “Most of my paintings come from a thought or an image that sparks my mind.” Often times, she said her work reflects her thoughts on humanity and injustices.
Staci said her work, which is representational rather than abstract, doesn’t reflect on her desire necessarily to connect to the viewer. “I just paint the image in my mind. Things that really interest me are segregation in schools, discrimination, natural disaster… Things that are so important that often go over looked.”
Staci said she doesn’t try to guide the viewer into what they should think about these subjects. Instead she said she wants them to make the story they see in her piece their own.
In terms of artists Staci admires, she said she has only one criteria. The work should be unique. She said she wants to look at an artist’s work and go, “Wow.”
As she heads off into a career in arts education, Staci said she wants to teach her students to have a unique point of view.
Staci—who will be studying for her master’s in special education— said she wants to create a nurturing environment in the classroom where students will feel free to express themselves in whatever medium that interests them. And she also wants to encourage them that no matter what medium they choose to use in their creations, they need to push their own limits.
Raw Natural Born Artists will present its next showcase, “Ensemble,” on Thursday, Sept. 6 at 8 p.m. at The Russian Lady, Ann Uccello Street, Hartford.