Art For All the Right Reasons


by Catherine Hoke, Executive Director, Peninsula School of Art

When people find out that I’m the executive director of the Peninsula School of Art, the first question they often ask is, “So, you must be an artist?” My standard response is something along the lines of, “The most artistic thing I do these days is make color-coded spreadsheets.” While this is true (and if I am honest with myself), it also is a way of side-stepping my fears and self-imposed barriers.

The truth hurts. I have access to some of the finest art educators in the country, but I almost never take a workshop, pick up a paint brush, or use my camera as often as I would like…the list goes on.

According to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), more than half of all adults have attended a live performance or visual arts activity in the last 12 months. More than 70 percent have engaged with the arts through technology, and 40 percent have shared, posted or emailed some form of artwork during the year. We watch, attend and view all kinds of art, yet less than 10 percent of Americans have engaged in arts learning through classes or lessons in last 12 months. It begs the question, why is it easier to be a viewer rather than creator? What keeps people, including me, from signing up for a workshop?

I looked to PenArt’s own students for the answers. I replayed the phone calls from students about to take the leap and register for their first-ever workshop. I read each of the survey responses from our nearly 600 students this summer, looking for the common threads that motivated them and the impacts of their shared experience.

I was buoyed by the conversations with our students and inspired by their willingness to face the unfamiliar, because, truthfully, we are all a little fearful of the unfamiliar – from strange cities to new experiences. As human beings, we are biologically programmed to run from fear, not towards it. But that is exactly what you are doing when you take an art workshop. You are putting yourself in a position where you don’t know all the rules, and certainly do not know what you are capable of creating.

I’ve been witness to many student “firsts” – the first time holding a paint brush, the first completed plein air painting, the first pot thrown on a wheel, and the first successful soldering of a ring bezel. These students serve as a constant reminder to not be afraid to try something new.

Emmett Johns working with students at Peninsula School of Art. Submitted.

So, setting aside fear and doubt, what can you expect from an art workshop? According to our students, you will:

  • Learn something new: Whether it’s a new technique, a new medium, or if art in general is something you’ve never done before, challenging yourself will build confidence.
  • Let go of the cerebral and everyday demands: Art gives us a chance to focus on our intuitive selves, to take a break from analytical thinking. According to one student, “I felt inspired and renewed after my workshop. It is easy to get caught up in life and let art take a backseat. After the workshop, I felt motivated to make art a part of my daily routine.”
  • Meet new people: When you take any class, you have an opportunity to meet new people, form new friendships, make new connections. “The workshop, the instructor, and my classmates have reenergized me! This was exactly what I needed to grow, find my voice and develop my skills.”
  • Meet and work with a practicing artist: Whether you are an artist or you collect art, taking a class from an artist you admire gives you a different perspective on their work. And even if you find out “that jewelry making may not be in my future, this workshop has made me more appreciative of those who do it.”
  • Open up your creativity: Learning new techniques or mediums helps to open our creativity in new ways and shows us how to solve problems differently.

These students’ comments reminded me that there are both fun and serious lessons to be learnt in every situation, and that human beings’ capacity to develop themselves is infinite. It also gave me a nudge to say that you don’t have to be great at something for it to be fun.

If any of these things seems beneficial to you, consider an art workshop in the coming months. And in my own case, I have signed up for a painting workshop at the end of October.


Peninsula Arts and Humanities Alliance, Inc., which contributes Culture Club throughout the summer season, is a coalition of nonprofit organizations whose purpose is to enhance, promote and advocate the arts, humanities and natural sciences in Door County.

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