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Visitors of Homestead National Monument of America had a chance to express their creative sides this week, under the guidance of an artist in residence.

Cara Calvert-Thomas is the latest artist in residence at Homestead National Monument of America. The program will bring 10 artists to the prairie this year to draw inspiration for their work, while also holding a public event at some point during their stay.

Calvert-Thomas grew up in Alaska and currently resides in California.

She works for Pinot’s Palette as both an artist instructor and director of artist training. Previously, she was an art teacher in Ponca City, Okla.

She is the descendant of homesteaders in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma, and said her own background was one reason she wanted to visit Homestead.

“I looked at it and thought it was the perfect starting point because my mom and dad’s family are originally from the Kansas-Oklahoma area,” Calvert-Thomas said. “On my mom’s side in particular, we have several homesteaders. It was kind of like bringing it home and taking it to my roots.

“It’s a topic I was very familiar with, but also wanted to research more into. As I learned more it was really impactful to me how much modern society has developed because of the Homestead Act.”

Charlotte McDaniel with Homestead said Calvert-Thomas and the other artists who visit Homestead bring their own views, which they share with the area.

“We have 10 artists coming out this year who offer a unique perspective to not only visitors, but staff,” she said. “They look at this place in a different way and having them here creating this work allows us to share that perspective with them. It’s a wonderful way for the public to see them at work.”

Members of the public had a chance to work with Calvert-Thomas during an interactive painting workshop.

Visitors created watercolor landscape paintings imposed with influential homesteaders.

“I created some printouts that had images of either homesteaders or people whose lives were greatly influenced by homesteading, either positively or negatively, and then some biographical information about those people,” Calvert-Thomas explained. “We created watercolor landscapes based on the area that they either homesteaded or originated from. We cutout the images and created a mixed media collage.”

Her advice for anyone interested in painting or other art who may feel intimidated is to essentially just dive in and experiment.

“The first thing is to play,” Calvert-Thomas said. “Go to someplace that has art supplies and see what looks interesting to you. Grab it and play with it. It’s art. It’s about creating and experimenting.”

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