WASILLA — Barb Stigen is a multimedia artist that thrives from sharing her art with other people, and helping them find their own creative spark. Stigen and her staff offer various art classes between scoops of ice cream and cups of coffee inside The Art Cafe, a judgement free artist enclave nestled in downtown Palmer.
Q: What’s some of your favorite things about running the cafe over the years?
“Oh, Palmerites, hands down, the students, the customers, the children... It’s hard to be here and not be happy. So, I get to see the best sides of everybody.”
Q: So what kind of art do you gravitate towards?
“I do glass art mostly, since probably 20 years now in some form or another.”
Q: Is that your favorite then?
“I like it all. But yeah, I spent a lot of years in glass. Currently at home, I play around with mixed media.”
Q: What other types of art do you like to work with?
“Sculpting. I love mixing sculpture and glass… There’s no rules. That’s absolutely the number one best thing about art... Failure’s not a negative. It’s just a part of the growing part.”
Q: What’s your relationship with art?
“I raised four kids. My husband worked out of town a lot. So, it was something I always aspired to do. I mean, I dream art. I always was doing something. Being a busy parent, it wasn’t always my priority. It’s always been a part of me; and of course my family was my priority and my bigger part of me, and now that they’re grown and Greg and I have the opportunity… It’s the right time in my life for it.”
Q: How did the end up starting the cafe?
“I totally never thought about teaching, ever… I just had my own studio at home. I was doing art and putting it on Facebook, and it sold… I was contacted by two people who to this day are students… These very persistent women who I love asked, ‘could you teach us?’” she said with a laugh. “My art studio was really small. It was in my house… I was like, ‘well, sure.’ They came over for the weekend and they made beautiful art… That’s where it began,” she said with a laugh. “I’m just a normal Joe. If I can do it, I can teach it to you… That’s where I found a real connection with art, through sharing it with people.”
Q: What do you think about the local pool of talent?
“It’s huge. There’s a lot of talent here. I like to say there’s an artist in everybody… I remember one family, they were sitting at the very back table. We were just painting pottery that night… The whole family was there, and the father was painting on this plate, freehanded… It was stunning. I was like, ‘wow, are you an artist?’ His kids were like, ‘Dad!’ He was like a hard hat type guy. He goes, ‘I didn’t even know I can do this either.’”
Q: How much value to think there is to that mentorship dynamic out here?
“We kind of created our own genre. There’s not many places like this… I think people enjoy art and express themselves through art when they toss their inhibitions out the door… It’s hard to make art when you’re all uptight and worried about what people are thinking. It’s a very non judgemental atmosphere here… You need to do art to please yourself, not to please everyone else.”
Q: What’s your advice for those who are thinking about picking up a creative hobby?
“There’s a quote from Andy Warhol, he says, ‘don’t worry about doing art, just jump and develop your wings on the way down.’ I actually borrowed that. I have it in my hand outs for the classes because they get paralysis from analysis. Just start. Just do it. Just jump. Just take that leap and the magic will happen.”
Q: So what kinds of classes do your staff and volunteers teach?
“Fiber photography, macrame, painting, mixed media, glass art, jewelry enameling, pottery, metal art, alcohol ink; anything really.”
Q: What kinds of mediums and backgrounds are you looking for among teachers?
“Anyone willing to share, anything, anything really… People are interested in all of it… We’re always looking for teachers… I’d like to build that back up.”
The Art Cafe is located at 131 East Blueberry Avenue in downtown Palmer. For more information, call 907-745-6100.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at email@example.com