How I came to teach at Pikes Peak Artist Collective
Hello! My name is Austin Kent. My journey to becoming a teacher at PPAC is one of a lifetime. It is wrapped up with my life as an artist, and key parts of my sense of self.
My first memories with art were in preschool. I was in an art class at the church preschool that my parents had me attend. Eventually, the preschool art teacher opened her own studio, Studio 101, where she gave art lessons for kids. I was in the first class at Studio 101 thanks to my mom (now that I think about it, I really need to thank her). The preschool art teacher turned small business owner is named Rhonda Con-Parent. I met Rhonda at the age of 2, and she has since become an unmatched mentor and teacher to me. Within the studio and without, I explored visual art throughout my childhood. Sometimes I would be making art as quickly as I could, and other times I would barely think about art until my weekly hour and a half class at Studio 101. Still, it was an ebb and flow that never quit.
As I grew older and entered highschool, I began to make new connections and understand a little bit more about the world, and as a side effect I also made new connections to art. I started drawing more regularly. Partly for fun, and partly as a way to deal with stress. I began seeing connections between drawing and math, physics, spirituality, and so much more. For a while I focused on drawing freeform art, which for me basically meant playing with elements like color, line, and shape. I began to fully realize that the creation of art, and what I got out of creating, was – and is – purely determined by my own mindset (as you may guess, highschool was very introspective for me). What I put into my art, is what I get out. Sometimes I would not like the art I made. Sometimes I would. In the end though, the art pieces that I liked the most were the pieces that I felt I had effectively conveyed my idea. I realized that a dedication to the process was what fostered the most learning and enjoyment. Whenever I pushed myself to draw more elaborately, more creatively, or draw things I was not familiar with, those were the times when I gained the most. This caused me to take a dive into gaining a better understanding with the technical skills I was learning from Rhonda. I practiced more with drawing from reality. Things like eyes, human figures, and cubes were my favorites for a while. I also went through a phase of drawing cubes. Just cubes, in every possible perspective that I could imagine. This pushed me to expand my mental image bank, and also grow my understanding of space and form. I could draw cubes forever though.
Eventually, I turned 18. A good thing in lots of ways, but it was also the age maximum for Studio 101. That wasn’t such a good thing in my eyes. In addition to having to be done at the studio, Rhonda announced that she would be selling the studio within the next year. Some students were so upset, afraid that the sale would mean the end of Studio 101 as we knew it. I was more hopeful, but a bit nervous nonetheless. Even though I was going to have to leave the studio, I wanted it to continue being a place for kids to have an environment where they could be comfortable to express themselves fully and without fear of failure. I was worried, but with graduation from the studio and highschool, and all the changes that entailed, I simply hoped the studio’s core lived on through the sale, and continued trying to figure out life in the “real world” as it had always been referred to by adults.
Over a year after I graduated, I walked into Studio 101 for old times sake and unknowingly began the next part of my journey with that studio. The sale that caused so much worry, thanks to a few strokes of good luck and good timing, put the studio into the hands of Rebecca! I told her my story, about my life spent in that studio, and my contributions to the space. A tree stump cut into a chair that I had helped paint, the mural on the alley side wall, and my hand prints on the ceiling (a tradition for students who graduate from the studio) to name a few. We exchanged info, and that was that. But then, I received a text from Rebecca asking if I wanted to help paint a mural at her new location and I said yes. After working together with adults and children to paint the mural, Rebecca offered me the chance to teach a class at the newly re-branded Studio 101, now named Pikes Peak Artist Collective. You know those moments that you life comes full circle? This was one of those moments for me. I was given the opportunity to be a teacher, and help shape the atmosphere of the studio. Here was a place that was such a critical piece of my life, and I was now getting the chance to be on the other side of the equation? Of course I said yes (and I definitely laughed and cheered with excitement on my drive home).
I couldn’t be happier to be a teacher at PPAC. Being able to help carry on the amazing environment that was started at Studio 101, is such an honor. For me, the studio was a place where I could come and be free to create whatever my heart desires, with no fear what would happen if I failed, and a support system to keep me growing even when I felt stuck. An environment that encourages such freedom and respect of authenticity is powerful. I know that I’m not the only person that experienced this from the studio, and despite the worry over the change in ownership, I am happy to know that I won’t be the last student to have an experience like mine. The core of what made the studio so authentic and so impactful hasn’t changed; freedom, compassion, and creativity, are what made Studio 101 thrive, and that same core keeps Pikes Peak Artist Collective thriving. I am so excited to enter this next chapter of my life, alongside the Pikes Peak Artist Collective beginning its next chapter as well.
Thank you for reading,