Ahwatukee artist Kathie Kelly, left, works with student Jen Winton in her studio.
Donna Perry/Special to AFN

When the Kids in Need Foundation approached Treasures 4 Teachers – recently selected to be one of their 40 U.S. National Resource Centers – for an artist to create two fine-art pieces as part of its annual fundraiser, T4T founder Barbara Blalock didn’t hesitate.

She selected Kathie Kelly, an Ahwatukee resident and former high school and Kyrene Elementary Schools art teacher whom she’d known for nearly 10 years.

“I chose Kathie because she’s been a member of Treasures 4 Teachers for years, and her reputation in the artist community is impeccable,” said Blalock, who started the nonprofit a decade ago in her Ahwatukee home. Now it is housed in a 20,000-square-foot facility in Tempe.

“I’ve seen her work, and it is amazing,” Blalock added. “She has a huge heart, and I just knew that she would appreciate being able to give back through her art.”

That giving back melds well with Kelly’s agenda these days, busy as they are.

Formerly an art teacher at the shuttered St. Paul’s Academy in Phoenix, Kelly was Kyrene’s traveling art teacher, serving Cerritos, Ninos and Mirada elementary schools.

She now teaches art at approximately 10 senior living centers throughout the East Valley and Scottsdale, and holds weekly art classes for adults and children in her Ahwatukee home. Kelly also provides professional and fun guidance with her popular group-painting parties.

The two artworks she’s painting for the KINF were to be completed this week.

One of the paintings will be auctioned off Sept. 12 at KINF’s 22nd anniversary gala in Minneapolis, and the other will be auctioned to benefit T4T at a later date.

The Kids in Need Foundation, established in 1995 and headquartered in Dayton, Ohio, distributes needed school supplies to kids who would otherwise go without. This is done through 40 U.S. Resource Center locations.

Helping provide supplies for needy children is nothing new to Kelly, and one of the reasons she has been a staunch supporter and member of Treasures 4 Teachers.

“As an art teacher teaching kids since 1996, I’ve been using Treasures 4 Teachers for years. I know it’s really important for teachers to be able to go in and get needed supplies. I was significantly able to stretch art budgets by going there and getting many useful things to make artwork with,” she explained, adding:

“Presented with unique supplies and an artistic direction, kids are so creative. They come up with better ideas than I do.”

But that praise discounts Kelly’s own creativity. She is adroit in oils, acrylics, watercolors and sculptures and mosaics.

“But right now, I’m focused on painting,” she laughed.

Mesa High School graduate Kelly became interested in art while working at a local hobby store where one of her coworkers was a portrait painter. Kelly sought out an oil painting teacher to learn how to paint and met Betty Huff, a Mesa artist who gave painting lessons in her home.

Her painting career had begun.

“I did that for two years and then went to Mesa Community College, where I majored in art,” she recalled. “I took a wide variety of art classes, not just painting. I learned, studied and worked with ceramics, 3-D design, drawing, and more.”

When her husband, Steve, accepted a job in Texas, the couple decided it was an appropriate time for her to pursue a degree. She earned a B.A. in fine arts from the University of Texas with painting as her major and art history her minor.

In 1995, the couple purchased their home in Ahwatukee. It is there she holds adult classes every Friday at 1 p.m., and children’s art classes Saturdays at 3 p.m., both 90 minutes in duration.

“I have a studio upstairs, but I do art classes in my family room and dining room. My husband has been so nice to let me spill over into these rooms,” she said.

Painting pretty much dominates her busy schedule.

“If I have sufficient time, I prefer oils but when I’m rushed, like with this project, I like acrylic,” she said. “Because I know how to handle the materials, I can push the envelope. After all, I’ve been painting since I was in my early 20s.”

She said the KINF guidelines require the work be on 24-by-30-inch canvases.

“They said I could paint anything I wanted as long as I used their materials and products,” she said.

Kelly was provided with six canvases and eight tubes of paint from Daler-Rowney and also received “nice, quality brushes.”

A spring trip to Payson and a more recent visit to Flagstaff had already supplied her with photographs of flowers and trees she’d snapped.

She’s using these as inspiration for the new paintings.

“I’ve got two paintings already underway, and with the other canvases, I can see what I want to donate to the foundation and Treasures 4 Teachers,” she said.

For T4T head Barbara Blalock, the foundation’s selection of Kelly was fitting.

“I love how it comes full circle with Treasures 4 Teachers starting in Ahwatukee, and an artist that’s been selected in Ahwatukee,” she said.

Along with KINF, Dixon Ticonderoga Company, established in 1795, is working with 10 resource centers to help make the 20 fine art pieces a reality. Other products used by the artists include Canson and Maimeri, which, along with Daler-Rowney, are among Dixon Ticonderoga art and office supply companies.

Dixon Ticonderoga company donates up to $1.5 million in products annually to KINF resource centers.

To view a sampling of Kathie Kelly paintings, or to learn more about the artist and/or her art classes, see ArtLessonsforYou.com


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