While the arts are sometimes considered an urban endeavor, they are the result of the innately human desire to create beauty. Art of all shapes and sizes belongs in small towns. Proud Centralian Amanda Hanson works diligently to expand opportunities for art in our rural community.
“One of my big things is bringing more art access to the area, especially to children and senior citizens,” Amanda says. “It’s my overall goal to provide art enrichment to people who might not typically have access.”
While watercolor is her favorite medium, Amanda found a second love when she discovered needle felting. “When I first started felting, I had a stressful full-time job,” she says. “It was very therapeutic with all the soft textures with bright colors.”
The whimsical animals and plants she creates are adorable, right down to the tiny littlest details. “Because my pieces are sculptural, I think of them as needing interest all around,” she says. “You can see the details from all angles so people can pick them up and explore them.”
Amanda’s art experience started in middle school. She had an amazing art teacher who introduced her to all different types of techniques and artists. In college she thought about going into animal sciences or art, then decided on art.
Amanda found a way to incorporate her love of animals into her artwork. “I’ve always liked using my art to teach people about different species of wildlife, especially ones that are often looked over like bugs, slugs, salamanders, and other Pacific Northwest creatures,” she says. “I want to show people that they are interesting and not just slimy and gross. When it comes down to it, they are all important for the environment.”
Amanda teaches art as well. She instructs grade school students with Art for Kids School, a fine art after-school program based out of Olympia. Various teachers from all over Western Washington give students the opportunity to try all kinds of art mediums with a sequential program to build up skills. Amanda expanded the program further south to include Lewis County when she started a program at Napavine Elementary. The art school hopes to expand to other cities in the area. “It’s such a fun program,” Amanda says. “We are not just teaching kids art but also boosting their self-esteem.”
Kids aren’t Amanda’s only students. For the last few years, she teaches retirees watercolor through Centralia College’s continuing education program at the Twin Cities Senior Center. Many of her students have health issues or family members with health issues, and coming to class is a reprieve. “It’s a time for them to set aside all their stress while gaining confidence,” Amanda says. “It doesn’t matter if you are 5 or 85, it’s all about trying new things and having confidence in yourself.”
Amanda also taught people who are blind or have poor vision to make jewelry. Her idea was to have them construct a stretchy bracelet or necklace with different shapes and sizes of beads, while trying to make it more tactile for the students. “Texture was a big part of it,” she says. “It was out of the normal for me, and took my concept of art as being a visual thing to how can I turn it textural to keep it interesting for them.”
Amanda has been Art Superintendent for junior and senior high art at the SWW Spring Youth Fair for the last three years. She loves encouraging young people to share their art with the public. This year, there were over 400 pieces of art with $1,600 in cash prizes and gift certificates awarded to students. “It’s about giving them a space to show off their art and reward them for it to encourage them to keep pursuing it,” she says.
When she isn’t creating or teaching art, Amanda is working as the assistant manager at Bead Opus. Her artwork is available there and at her Square Store. For the first time, she is featured on ARTrails at Verdant Fire Gallery inside Rectangle Gallery.
Amanda recalls when a friend reached out a few years ago and asked why she wasn’t pursuing her dreams. “At the time, I didn’t have an answer to that question,” Amanda says. “Just excuses. But it was the first time that anyone had ever asked me that. That ultimately led me to find a purpose for my artwork and into a career where I can help people of all ages to be creative. When it comes to anything in life, encourage – not only yourself but others around you – to pursue their passions. Sometimes a simple few words are all it takes to ignite someone’s ambition.”
For information about commission work contact Amanda at Amanda.H.Illustration@gmail.com.