Kristin Allen | greenwater garage + gallery
According to Kristin Allen, art is for everyone. It allows people to see, to swim and to fly. Kristin’s career has included being a graphic designer, artist, marketing manager, product designer, and community builder. These days, she owns and operates greenwater garage + gallery while also working as a professional fundraiser for a local nonprofit.
In 2011, Kristin bought an old service station in downtown New London and turned it into an office, art studio and gathering space. Her vision was to offer her community art experiences of all kinds.
“The thing I discovered about the community was that once they came into my space, they connected with each other. And once they connected, they felt like they belonged,” she explains.
In November of 2017, Kristin partnered with Maria Novak, a local elementary art teacher and artist. The two shared a strong passion for teaching adults to tap into their original creativity and both dabbled in all types of art mediums. After a year of experimenting with class styles and topics, Kristin and Maria found a unique teaching style and decided to focus on the fundamentals. “We need people to have the art school experience. The by-product of learning the fundamentals is you end up making a lot of art.” Kristin adds, “Art is an expression – and everybody has a different expression. Those expressions allow you to get to know each other and create connections.”
How have you found success?
“By teaching people the fundamentals of a regular art practice, they can start their own. When I’m teaching drawing, I’m actually teaching people how to see.”
“I’m not teaching anyone to fly, they already know how – I’m just throwing birds in the air.”
What’s been your biggest challenge?
“Loosey goose art school. We are finding what works, and figuring out what engages people. This is weird because both Maria and I are chameleons. We’re trying to figure out what color they want us to be. Trying to find alignment between what we know and what people want to learn and experience.”
What does each class have in common?
“We help participants feel like their toes are hanging over the edge of the deep end of the pool. Some people are wishing they had a life jacket (insecurity, fear, etc.), but they’re going to plug their nose and dive in anyway. Maria and I stand at the edge of the pool with a life-saving ring that we never have to use. Seriously, everybody can swim. It’s amazing what magic and self-discovery comes from that.”
How do you measure the success of your business?
“I’m thrilled when we fill a class. But what’s really magical is when people stand away from the work they accomplished in the span of two hours and have this disbelief on their face. People are creating things that they never thought they could create. And they learned about art along the way.”
What do you see happening because of what you’re doing?
“The by-products are building a wonderful community, cultural confidence, arts vocabulary and engagement. I’m hoping that people who come and take these classes become art supporters. We enrich and deepen the roots of our arts community. Knowing what it takes to create art builds a much deeper understanding.”
What does 2019 look like?
“2018 was experimental and filled with community outreach. The schedule and ticket price was a struggle, but now we are focusing on frequent flyers through a punch card. Punch cards have been great! People are budgeting their joy.”