A few posts back I wrote about my brother, Walt Hampton, who makes wonderful music, teaches it and shares it with others. The giving of music is an act of joy and generosity. In that same spirit, today I’m writing about my friends Chuck and Janis Lindley, who teach and share visual art in a uniquely generous way. Their art outreach, called Made to Create, operates on the principle that creativity is essential to the human spirit. The thirst for beauty runs deep in people–so deep, the Lindleys believe, that when we help people develop their own artistry we help strengthen their ability to respond to what is good. For Chuck and Janis, teaching art is a way of caring for people.
I first got to know Janis when she taught my sons’ high school art classes. Janis and I were both teachers, and in our own ways we were both artists, and this commonality made us friends. Chuck and Janis later moved to India, and our home was one of the places they would stay on trips back to the U.S. By the time the Lindleys were making these trips and lodging in our upstairs bedroom, I had committed myself deeply to the work of writing–and that meant joy, but it also meant a lot of frustration. I vented about this to Janis, bluntly and sometimes almost rudely, and didn’t hide my visceral doubts about whether art actually does the artist much good. Knowing that frustration is part of the artistic process, Janis encouraged me to keep writing and told me what she liked about my work. This–encouraging others–is her persistent habit, and it is one of the reasons people feel safe when they try out art with Janis and Chuck.
Made to Create is the Lindleys’ outreach of fine arts classes, creativity workshops, and open studio. These are offered in their Tacoma home and other places. The Lindleys also plan to open their home as an art ashram, a place where people can enjoy art as a spiritual retreat. Some of the students the Lindleys have taught are fairly well-to-do, others marginalized. Chuck and Janis first developed Made to Create about six years ago while living in India. There they worked with art galleries, neighborhoods and NGOs to teach art to middle-class students, to poor children and to girls scarred by sexual trafficking. Janis told me about one of these girls holding an oil pastel for the first time and joyfully discovering the color and beauty she could produce with it. Experiences like this have convinced Chuck and Janis that when people find that they are capable of creating something good, they are more able to respond to life in a hopeful way.
Two years ago the Lindleys returned to the U.S. and are now living in Tacoma. They teach art to toddlers, children, teens and adults, with lessons that include technique, experimentation, and art history. The Lindleys also offer art experiences through the YMCA and use art for mentoring foster children. Through the support of donors, Chuck and Janis are able to offer these experiences at affordable rates, and they stress that cost should not prevent anyone from attending. They love and enjoy their students.
When I asked them what message they would like to communicate to people about Made to Create, they laughed a little. Their reply? “Get in here!”