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Noozhawk Talks: Art Enriches Life — and Death — for Kerrie Kilpatrick Weinberg

Founder of Art Walk, longtime Sarah House supporter exults in nourishing creative potential all around her

“Through positive self-expression the doors of opportunity will open” is the mission statement for the nonprofit Art Walk for Kids/Adults. It could also be the motto for the life of Art Walk’s founder, Kerrie Kilpatrick-Weinberg, who started the organization in Santa Barbara in 2000.

Kerrie Kilpatrick-Weinberg, founder of Santa Barbara's Art Walk for Kids/Adults, credits a recent trip to Africa with re-inspiring her artist within. 'I find that travel always feeds me and excites me so then I can excite my students,' she says.
Kerrie Kilpatrick-Weinberg, founder of Santa Barbara’s Art Walk for Kids/Adults, credits a recent trip to Africa with re-inspiring her artist within. “I find that travel always feeds me and excites me so then I can excite my students,” she says. (Elite Henenson / Noozhawk photo)

The program — which is suitable for all but designed for at-risk and special-needs students — uses the creation of art projects to teach students other academic skills like math, problem solving, reading and understanding directions.

Leslie Dinaberg: The Art Walk for Kids/Adults Annual Fall Art Sale benefit is Saturday. What can we expect?

Kerrie Kilpatrick-Weinberg: Caron Miller is graciously hosting it again at her studio at 112½ W. Micheltorena St. She has all those fabulous scarves and shawls, hats and wraps. She’s in, like, 220 different stores across America. Her price point goes from about $8 for a head wrap all the way up to $250 for a reversible wrap, so her prices are really affordable. She is hosting it for us.

We’ve got five artisans. We’ve got The Grapeseed Co. with all of their lotions and candles; for 25 bucks you can get three items so that’s a no-brainer for the holidays. Sally Terrell ... is coming back with her jewelry, and Helen Heisling, who does lovely silver jewelry, and Michelle from Uru, which are one-size-fits-all wrap shawls.

Then, of course, our Art Walk for Kids/Adults Art Show. Each piece is $99 — framed, matted, whatever. And, of course, the money goes straight back to the artists.

We do this every year. It’s not a massive fundraiser where people pay tickets; it’s a free day of just coming by and showing and sharing all of the art that we’ve been doing.

LD: That’s great exposure for the artists.

KKW: It is, and every year we make enough to cover us for our canvases for Chagall House and Hillside House, where we do our classes.

LD: The last time we talked about Art Walk, you were taking time off and doing your own painting.

KKW: I’m still doing my own painting. Every time I take a journey, I get so inspired that I want to paint and paint. Last year I was in Africa. (My husband) Henry and I were very fortunate because we were invited by the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Henry’s a West Coast ambassador for them so we went on four different safaris. We got to go and visit the rhinoceroses and saw sanctuaries of them, and we went to Daphne Sheldrick’s elephant orphanage for the baby elephants in Nairobi. We were up in the north of Kenya. But we mostly saw elephants, tracking them with a naturalist and with an environmentalist and a biologist, and then just Henry and me. It was one of the most wonderful trips we’ve ever taken.

When I came back from Africa, I had all of this really strong visual information — flying small planes across terrains, looking down on this patchwork quilt. There was a drought so it was really lots of siennas and burnt colors, and when I came back I had to paint that and, of course, that energy was taken to class. We ended up doing all of these elephant collages and silhouettes and big fabric collage tapestries. ... As an artist, I find that travel always feeds me and excites me so then I can excite my students.

LD: There’s a great quote about how you have to fill the well.

KKW: I have another quote about creative potential: Creative potential lies at the heart of every human being. I believe that. Creative potential lies at the heart of every human being regardless of physical challenges, and I think that as much as Art Walk for Kids/Adults is for people with disabilities. Art Walk is for everybody.

... As a nonprofit, you try to stay within a group because it’s easier for people to associate you, but art is for everybody and I really wanted to get that across. I think in many ways our handicapped artists are more patient and gentle with themselves, less judgmental. I really believe that when you have a class it needs to be more than an hour, and I think that’s the thing that’s been hardest for teachers in schools because they only get about 30 minutes; as a volunteer for 14 years in the art class, I get so frustrated with that. So much of it is cookie-cutter art.

LD: So much of it is the prep work; if there weren’t a parent there to help in class they would never get it done.

KKW: I don’t know how they do it. I think they deserve a medal just to have 26, 30, whatever it is, kids all doing a piece of art. ... That’s another thing with Art Walk, we offer a project every week but we don’t have to all work at the same pace. I have 12 students at a time and maybe three are doing one project, four are doing another, someone else is doing their own thing, but somehow magically they all get through the projects, but I never say to someone, “Hurry up.”

I always ask them if they’re ready to take on another project. Because you can’t rush people. I think our whole education system is a big rush. Every class is rush, rush, rush. They get this stuff handed down from Sacramento and then you have a set time to do it, but we’re all very different and our learning experiences are all so different.

LD: That’s true.

KKW: I know. What are we really sharing with them? I don’t know. My new thing is I’m learning the ukulele with my son. It’s really fun. Every morning I take him to school and he plays his ukulele.

LD: In the car?

KKW: Yes (Laughs). That’s his practice time. It’s such a lovely thing to take a class with your child. ... I’m never going to be a great ukulele player but I’m having that experience with him.

That’s our fun thing together. They change so quickly. They grow up so quickly and they don’t want to hang out with you.

LD: I like that idea.

KKW: Going back to art, I think art is expansive. And when I say expansive, I mean I think art opens the heart and I think there’s a real correlation with not just painting but music and performance and dance. It’s an expressive experience, it’s heart healing, and I think that’s why people love to be around it and witness it.

I think that’s why the Artizan’s Ball is a hit at Sarah House. ... It’s all about creativity and art and positive self-expression.

Everybody gets to be a piece of art, an art work on that night. You get to dress up and become someone else, whether it’s a painting or an art work or a person, but it’s all art. That’s all part of the healing and the open heart, and I think that really is what makes us feel comfortable in our life space, whoever we are. The Artizan’s Ball is for me all a continuation.

LD: Is it the main fundraiser for Sarah House?

KKW: Yes. They have eight beds. Hundreds of people have died there since I’ve been involved with Sarah House. We started off for AIDS and now we are for homeless, low income and dying poor, and I’m sure that’s not the end of our journey either. I think Sarah House is always reinventing and evolving because it meets the needs of our community. That’s what I love about it, because it’s so much more to people — all kinds of people, not just one class, not just one race, not just one faith. It transcends all of that like art does.

LD: Tell me about the big award Sarah House received.

KKW: We got an award from the California Hospice and Palliative Care Association, so this is a big deal because we are not a medical model hospice; we are a social model, which means we are alternative. We can run at $380 a day per patient instead of up to $2,000 in an ordinary hospital. And even in a regular hospice it’s $700 and something, but for us it’s $380. We got the award from the association of medical models for being the most outstanding hospice in 2010, so it’s a huge, huge award. For me, that just feeds me even more and makes me proud to work on this.

LD: Sarah House is a special place.

KKW: I just love the work that they do there. You come into the world in, hopefully, loving hands and clean sheets, and at Sarah House you exit with loving hands, loving people and clean sheets. It’s like the whole cycle of life. What could be more rewarding than that?

LD: The fourth annual Artizan’s Ball is Dec. 11. Tell me about it.

KKW: For me, the Artizan’s Ball was very clear: It’s creative, it’s art, and my background is theater and I love drama and I love spectacle. I worked as a set designer and here I get this grand opportunity to recreate Rockwood (Rockwood Santa Barbara Women’s Club) with a new theme and a new visual every year. It’s so exciting to have the great board that we have and the great committee that we have, and partners who come on board and really share it with our community.

This is a great party and there’s not many really cool parties to go to in December. This is it. This is our big holiday event.

LD: It’s a Beatles theme this year?

KKW: Yes, it’s a magical mystery tour and the Beatles from Abbey Road to India. We’re having Bibi’s boutique, as well, and you can buy items right there and then. ... We’ll have DJ Michael Hurley, we’ll have our upper level with our boutique and auction and then we’ll have a live band, The Tearaways, and passed hors d’oeuvres and an open bar this year.

... This year we’ve got all of our meter maids, lovely Rita Meter Maids, and they are going to be writing traffic tickets and getting everybody out into the auction.

I thought this year we needed to make some more friends in the business community so I came up with the $500 Friends of Sarah House sponsorship. What the $500 sponsors are getting are two tickets to the ball and a 25-foot advertisement on the screen that will project their business, what they’re about and a visual, and it will go on the invitation. It’s a great way for people who knew a little bit about Sarah House or didn’t know about Sarah House to get involved on a very, very minimal outlay. That’s going well; we have about 20 businesses on board.

Vital Stats: Kerrie Kilpatrick-Weinberg

Born: England

Family: Husband Henry, sons Ben, 19, and Sam, 14

Civic Involvement: Founder, Art Walk for Kids/Adults; board member, Sarah House and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)

Professional Accomplishments: Theater designer, model, artist, art teacher and founder of Art Walk for Kids/Adults

Best Book You’ve Read Recently: Lighting the Eye of the Dragon: Inner Secrets of Taoist Feng Shui by Dr. Baolin Wu; Mountains beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder; The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees by Robert Irwin and The Good Death by Marilyn Webb.

Favorite Local Spot: “More Mesa. I walk it three times a week with the dogs, and I love to go and have a little swim in the ocean down there.”

Little-Known Fact: “Being a Brit I do have to have my tea, preferably at 3 but it’s usually 3:30 these days. ... I’m a boot hog. It’s kind of embarrassing. I keep them even if I don’t wear them anymore. I wouldn’t say it’s out of control but if you go into my closet the whole length is boots. Now I can’t wear them all because some of them are too high or I bought them in a charity shop or a yard sale just because I like the look of them. What I really like to do from time to time is put a vase in one, just in my space. It’s kind of a weird thing.”

F.Y.I.

The Art Walk for Kids/Adults Annual Fall Art Sale & Boutique will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Caron Miller’s Studio, 112½ W. Micheltorena St. Click here for more information.

Sarah House’s annual Artizan’s Ball, “Magical Mystery Tour: From Abbey Road to India,” takes place from 6 to 10 p.m. Dec. 11 at Rockwood Santa Barbara Women’s Club, 670 Mission Canyon Road. Click here for more information or to order tickets online.

Noozhawk contributor Leslie Dinaberg can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow her on Twitter: @LeslieDinaberg.

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