Key Takeaways:

  1. Dr. Hightower's innovative approach to creativity makes her class a must-attend for anyone looking to explore self-expression through art.
  2. Practical advice and inspiration for integrating art into daily life, regardless of one's artistic skill level or background.
  3. Attendees will gain a new perspective on how art can serve as a medium for emotional expression, healing, and connecting with a community of like-minded individuals.

A Lifelong Commitment to Art and Education

Dr. Mary Lou Hightower's career spans an impressive 50 years, dedicating her life to teaching art across various levels, from Spartanburg District Six schools to the University of South Carolina Upstate. Now retired from being a Professor Emeritus of Art, Dr. Hightower continues to inspire through her work as a practicing artist and a signature member of the South Carolina Watermedia Society. Her passion for quilts and incorporating sewing into her artwork pays homage to her grandmother's influence, extending her legacy through each stitch and brushstroke. Currently, she’s working to remix her art by taking pictures of her paintings and turning them into pendants as a way to make art more accessible and take on a new medium. 

"I have enjoyed all parts of my teaching career and I am now ready to enjoy my personal artistic journey," Dr. Hightower reflects on her half-century in art education. 

Her journey from teaching to creating wearable art highlights her belief in making art accessible to everyone, regardless of their budget. Her innovative approach to repurposing photographs of her artwork into pendants showcases her commitment to bringing art into people's everyday lives.

Inspiration and the Artistic Process

In her upcoming class, Guest Speaker: Dr. Mary Lou Hightower - Expressing Yourself Through Art, Dr. Hightower intends to share the sources of her inspiration and how one creative spark can lead to a cascade of ideas. 

"You draw inspiration from everywhere; you can't force it on yourself," she advises, encouraging learners to embrace their interests and passions as the foundation of their artistic endeavors. 

Dr. Hightower's experience with transforming landscapes, quilted pieces, or flags into pendants exemplifies how openness to suggestions and feedback can unlock new avenues of creativity.

This class is not just about learning new techniques; it's an invitation to think outside the box and find joy in the process of creation. Dr. Hightower emphasizes the importance of personal expression, noting that art is deeply personal and should reflect the artist's feelings and experiences rather than attempting to replicate someone else's work.

“I’ll be talking about inspiration and how I get inspiration. I believe one thing snowballs into another,” she says. She hopes to give tips for others to find their own inspiration. 

“You draw inspiration from everywhere. You can’t force it on yourself. You should pick things you like and care about, and that’s what will resonate with your viewers.”

She believes that people should not focus on the end process of art but on the experience itself. 

“You have to try not to be so hard on yourself, just experiment and have fun. Be a part of the creative experience and process. If it goes bad, it’s just a piece of paper, have fun and enjoy the process.”

Mary Lou strongly believes that education is one of the things we have to continue all throughout our lives in order to keep ourselves current and exposed to new things. 

“I think GetSetUp is a good example of that. It gives older adults things to think about and enjoy without feeling uncomfortable, and that’s something GetSetUp has in spades.”  

The Role of Art in Healthy Aging

Dr. Hightower is a staunch advocate for the role of art in promoting mental and physical well-being, especially as we age. 

"Art has the possibility for you to be active; you use your whole body, your mind, and hands, and really get involved," she states, highlighting how art can bring excitement and purpose to one's life. 

Surrounding oneself with positive influences and engaging in creative activities can significantly impact health and happiness.

“I really feel it’s important to surround yourself with positive people, and I think that’s one of the most important things. Here in my studio, I have a group of artists here that walk by, and they have a way to inspire me. If you just watch TV, you are just letting life go by you. To me, art is an excitement that generates good health and well-being, and it gets you up and out of the house.” Mary Lou’s studio is in a converted old textile mill.

The importance of learning at any age is a theme Dr. Hightower returns to often, quoting her father's wisdom that education is something that can never be taken away from you. She believes people can take up art and learn new things at any age and any stage!

This belief in lifelong learning is at the heart of her message to GetSetUp learners: "If you stop learning, you stop being."

Why Attend Dr. Hightower's Class?

Dr. Hightower's Guest Speaker: Dr. Mary Lou Hightower - Expressing Yourself Through Art class is more than just an art lesson; it's a journey through the transformative power of creativity.

 "Art doesn't stand still; it moves with the way you feel and think," she explains, inviting attendees to see art as a living, evolving expression of the self. 

Her goal is to demonstrate how art can be a response to life's events, serving as a therapeutic outlet for emotions and stress.

Her advice to fellow artists is, “The biggest thing to understand is that art is personal, and you have to come from your art process and realize it’s a process and not an end product. I think people tend to think they have to have a good finished product, and I think you have to enjoy the process. The end product will come, and I would suggest as you work through the process.”

Learners will leave the class with a renewed sense of the possibilities that art offers for self-expression, healing, and enjoyment. Dr. Hightower's personal journey from traditional art forms to innovative projects like her ReMix jewelry serves as a powerful example of how creativity can flourish at any stage of life.

“Let those creative juices flow out and just enjoy. I think life is too short not to enjoy every day, and I think that is where art helps so much. Art gives you that chance to experiment and enjoy!”

Mar 7, 2024

Classes by:

Liz Miller

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