The Story of Kate's Art School

The Story of Kate's Art School

Posted by Kate Manville-Schwartz on Apr 14th 2021

Even in the hard times of entrepreneurship, I feel called to teach art in this town.

Sometimes I forget to stop and acknowledge what a cool personal story that I have that led me to opening Kate's Art School.  In 2009, when I was a first year teacher, in Beijing China, I worked at a remarkable preschool and elementary school that focused on tools, techniques and methods for all of its classes.  No teacher was allowed to give a worksheet or a coloring page.  Our desks were in our ginormous teacher's lounge, not the classroom.  Everything this school did was so intentional, and it caused me to start thinking about everything that is normal in American Education and question what was good practice and what wasn't.  

I worked there for three years before moving to Kuwait, and realized I was never going to be the teacher I wanted there and so I moved back to the Irish Hills, Michigan.  After this experience, I knew that it was unlikely to find a public, or even private for that matter, program in this area that would allow me to teach the way I thought was best.  Community-based art centers and camps were a closer fit, but their programing was inconsistent and sparsely offered at the capacity that I thought was necessary to really grow artists.  

Me, now a mom of two, and a wife to a local entrepreneur, felt destined to a life of waiting tables.  There's nothing wrong with waiting tables, Lord knows I loved the cash, but my passion was art education.  Confiding in a friend who's a business consultant, I told her my struggles, and to her the answer was obvious: open your own school.  I was hesitant because I knew the supplies necessary were going to be expensive.  Soon after that, an artist friend of mine, in her 80's died, and her family contacted me to see if I'd like all her art supplies...she owned a school's worth of supplies.  But even with that, it was late spring already and I knew that if I was to open a school, it would need to open in the Fall, when parents are interested in signing their kids up for things.  That seemed like a rush, and I questioned whether it was possible to get it all together, so I continued to keep this idea on the back-burner.  

Then, a few days later, one Saturday, after a very restful night, I woke up to a beautiful warm spring day, and it's hard to explain, but I felt a deep sense of inspiration and motivation.  And without thinking, I turned to my husband and said, "I think I want to open my own school.  Watch the kids.  I'm going to go look for real estate."  It was like the words were coming out, but I hadn't pre-planned the sentence.  I even surprised myself.  Now mind you, we're world travelers and very spontaneous, and so he just responded with, "ok" and off I went.  While out, I ran into what is now my current landlord, and he referred me to a local bank and with their help and a business consultant, six weeks later, my school opened.  Let me repeat that...SIX WEEKS LATER, I opened.

Truly, an amazing story and I cannot believe that I forget to tell it.  Talk about a spiritual alignment with this passion to teach art.  I've never questioned whether Kate's Art School was meant to be.  Even in the hard times of entrepreneurship, I feel called to teach art in this town.