Musèo Art Academy fundraiser draws upon healing power of art

May 1, 2012

By David Hayes

Muséo Art Academy teacher Beth Wetzel helps students (from left) Eli Massman, 6, Alli Dandeneau, 7, and Audrey Newbrey, 6, create their versions of George Rodrigue’s ‘Blue Dog.’ By Greg Farrar

Marci Knutsen has seen firsthand the importance of art programs in a child’s life, from her own to those who benefit from public programs.

That’s why the co-founder of Musèo Art Academy is pleased to host a benefit auction for Art With Heart on May 4.

After several years of putting her graphic-design degree to use as head of marketing, she left the workforce to raise her children.

“Being a stay at home mom with kids lasted about five minutes,” she said.

Her daughter, then 3 years old, was enrolled in art classes and really liked it. But when the instructor of the classes didn’t want to come to the plateau any more, Knutsen began offering her own classes. They started at The Plateau Club, but demand soon ballooned, so she opened her own business in Klahanie, Musèo Art Academy. She offers enrichment classes in drawing, painting and mixed media.

Enrollment continued to grow every year. She expanded programming over the years, offering on-site visits to schools for children and businesses for corporate team building.

But then the recession hit, creating a tough time for everyone.

“However, parents told me they were willing to sacrifice other things in their lives to keep their kids enrolled in art classes,” Knutsen said.

She said she was touched, adding that art programs are among the first programs to be cut at schools when budgets are reduced.

Through a parent of one of her students, she learned about Art With Heart, and she was smitten by the nonprofit organization’s efforts. Started in Seattle, Art With Heart published materials to help children through tough times, including “Oodles of Doodles” for youths in hospitals, “Chill ‘n’ Spill” for teens, which was put to particularly good use in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and “The Magnificent Amazing Me,” which was designed to help children while their siblings go through tough times.

If you go

Musèo Art Academy annual student exhibition to benefit Art With Heart

“They’ve had an amazing impact helping with the healing of kids,” Knutsen said of Art With Heart.

The first fundraiser she hosted for Art With Heart was a huge success a few years ago. But the follow-up couldn’t occur until Musèo Art Academy was settled in its current location in downtown Issaquah, the historic former Bank of Issaquah building.

“The kids loved it,” Knutsen said. “They were so excited about the fact, knowing what they were doing made a difference for kids just like them. It was also incredibly touching to see so many kids coming in and emptying their pockets of crumpled $1, $5 and even $20 bills they earned that they wanted to donate to the cause.”

This time around, her staff has offered up original pieces of art for silent auction at the opening reception May 4, to coincide with the kickoff of the annual Downtown Issaquah Association’s ArtWalk.

Student art will be prominently displayed, and visitors can purchase greeting cards and “compliment” note cards to place near each piece of artwork. There will also be refreshments and free art activities. The art will remain up through June 30. She added while there is no official goal, it would be great if the fundraiser brought in about $1,000.

“I am especially appreciative of my staff, who have taken upon themselves in extra, spare time to create original art pieces in support of the organization and the kids,” Knutsen said.

David Hayes: dhayes@isspress.com, 392-6434, ext. 237. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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