Demystifying the Artistic Process for Kids and Families

Local art studio director enjoys letting kids explore and get 'messy'.

This Q&A feature helps readers learn more about people living and working in the Mount Vernon business community. This week’s Q&A profiles Kathryn Horn Coneway, Director and Instructor at .

Coneway grew up in the Riverside Gardens neighborhood and returned to the Mount Vernon area five years ago. Prior to returning to her hometown, she and her husband, Chad (who was in the Navy for 10 years), lived in Norfolk, Rhode Island and San Diego. Kathryn attended Stratford Landing Elementary School, Carl Sandburg Middle School and West Potomac High School.

Kathryn studied art and education at the University of Virginia, earning a B. A. in Studio Art with a photography concentration. She received a Masters in Art Therapy from George Washington University in 2003. She completed art therapy internships at Accotink Academy in Springfield, Virginia and at Georgetown's Lombardi Cancer Center. Kathryn taught art and photography at the Miller School of Albemarle and the UVA summer enrichment program. She also has worked as an art teacher, artist in residence and art therapist, as well as pursuing her own artistic practice. She continues to exhibit her photography and mixed media work in community and juried shows.

Kathryn and Chad, an engineer for Fairfax Water, have been married for 11 years and have two boys, ages 7 and 9. Her sons attend Fort Hunt Elementary School.

How did you become interested in your line of work?

I started out teaching art, and then moved into art therapy. I decided to stay home with my children when they were younger. Being at home with my kids gave me a chance to really see how young children can express themselves through art. I have always used an open approach with regards to kids and art … let them get messy and see what they can do with certain materials. It was always really neat to see what they would come up with. That experience really helped me realize that I could connect with kids. It also helped me see their areas of growth and strength, and what they had to say through art. My big thing is really trying to help demystify art processes so that people can learn the tools, and how to work with them. Then they are less scared to give something new a try.

What prompted you to launch Art at the Center? Describe what your studio offers.

As a mom, when I used to talk to other mom friends, I realized not everyone is always comfortable with the concept of paint, clay and kids. I wanted to come up with a space for kids and their families to be able to explore the world of art, and feel OK about getting messy. Teresa Evans, my co-founder, and I initially launched Art at the Center on Quaker Lane in June 2008. We moved to our current Sherwood Hall location in April 2009. Our studio is designed specifically for children and their families, emphasizing the use of natural and recycled materials as well as traditional art media. The studio is a learning laboratory, offering morning, afternoon and evening classes in art exploration, clay sculpting and more. All of our classes are designed to stimulate the minds of children as they participate in projects either individually or in groups. These sessions are designed to engage critical thinking and problem solving skills in a fun, safe environment.

How has your business changed since 2008?

We have had a great response to our classes and activities in the local community. The studio has grown from parent-child classes into more offerings for older children in elementary school. We also try to reach out to the local community as an art resource. We host several events throughout the year to get everyone involved, from a Chalk Draw event over Labor Day Weekend, a Light Painting event before the winter holidays and a Collage Day in April in conjunction with Earth Day. For each of these community events, we always try to support a community organization that may be in need. It’s a great way to bring people together in the local community to support a local cause, and to appreciate art.

As a business owner with two small kids, how do you balance work and home life?

It definitely takes careful scheduling. I think my husband and I plan pretty well. It’s nice that I run a child-focused business, and if my children have to come to work with me from time to time, they still enjoy it. My goal right now is to keep the business to a size that’s manageable, where I can balance both work and home life.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

It’s great to see kids become little art experts. To see kids own their newly acquired knowledge and share it with their parents, and their classmates and then talk about all the steps to their process, it’s really neat to experience. They form a community of artists with each other and with their families. It’s rewarding to see kids take a sense of working as young artists.

Where is your favorite place to go in the area?

River Farm Gardens, and any art museum in Washington, DC.

Do you have a favorite area restaurant?

Faccia Luna in Old Town.

What’s the last book you read?

I’m currently reading my kids my favorite childhood book, A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle.

If you weren’t in this business, what would you be doing?

I guess it would still be something to do with the arts. This is really where I want to be. Perhaps writing about kids and art is an area for personal growth in the future.





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