Anne Knapp wanted to teach.
She studied both art and art education in school, specifically training to be a K-12 specialist who could develop curriculum that tied art into other subjects, to help children better understand what they were supposed to be learning. This was decades ago, when the state of Washington sponsored such a program.
“But no sooner did I graduate,” Knapp said, “then did the state pretty much do away with that.”
It was a disappointing way to begin a career, but her educational training had provided her with a broad base of artistic skills – Knapp had studied etching, printmaking, fine art, three-dimensional work and many other art forms during her training.
“I don’t think there’s anything I haven’t done,” said the Gig Harbor resident, now retired after a career that started at various art supply stores in Tacoma, where she spearheaded in-store classes and community outreach efforts, and then led toward display and management at the Bon Marche and Macy’s.
She spent much of her life as a fiber artist, spinning and weaving and forming tapestries. But it’s a medium that takes a lot of effort and time, and as Knapp had kids and became busier at work, she found she didn’t have much of either. She needed a new outlet.
“When I discovered pastels, it was like love at first sight,” Knapp said. She had brushed quickly past pastels while in school, but was soon drawn to the medium that combined her love of drawing and her love of color in a controlled manner.
“As a weaver, it’s all about control,” Knapp said. “I wanted to be representational, but still to get that mood and color and sense of the moment.”
Knapp became involved in plein air, or outdoor, painting, and leads a group every summer in Gig Harbor to capture natural surroundings in pastels and oils. Knapp said she enjoys that plein air artwork is portable and enables her to travel – she visited France this past year and had the chance to paint in Monet’s garden – but that it can also be a challenge, as the light and weather changes frequenty and the outdoors presents its own obstacles.
“There’s nothing worse than picking pastels out of tall grass,” Knapp joked.
Her work has been featured recently at the Tacoma Art Museum, and has received local and national awards, and Knapp sits on the boards of several arts organizations including the Peninsula Art League and the Gig Harbor Art Center Alliance.
But she’s also been able to get back to art education – she started an artist residency this week with Two Waters Arts Alliance which will send her to Key Peninsula Middle School, to teach after-school classes on metal embossing. In the past Knapp has also taught classes in the South Kitsap School District.
Knapp believes that art education is vitally important.
“Everyone can do art,” Knapp said. “It’s like being literate, that ability to draw and put down ideas.”
She added that art’s primary benefit, which she has seen firsthand in the classroom, is in the development of creative problem-solving through hands-on education.
“It’s so critical to develop that aspect of your brain by doing artwork, because you’re constantly making decisions of ‘if I do this, what will happen?’” Knapp said. “It’s a whole part of the brain that we’re kind of leaving by the wayside.”