Today we’d like to introduce you to Susan Sieber.
Susan, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I had always loved drawing, and had taken a few art classes in college, as well as studied art & architecture during a semester abroad in Ifrane, Morocco. I originally received my BA in Creative Writing from Beloit College, Wisconsin, and thought I was going to pursue writing or English teaching. I did teach English for a year in Naruto, Japan at a high school there. I enjoyed the experience, but when I returned to the U.S. I ended up in a tech job at the McHenry County College (MCC) IT department. I’d grown up in the California Bay area, where a lot of tech companies are, and my father worked for Sony, so I guess it was a natural fit. But, I found myself pursuing art as a hobby after work and on weekends. I instructed a few youth art classes at Reprographics Art Supply in Crystal Lake, along with my now-business partner Scott Little. I also taught some non-credit art classes at MCC, mostly adult drawing classes. I found my focus turning more and more to teaching art – I found I really loved seeing that “light bulb” go on when a student suddenly realized they could learn to draw or learn a certain technique. It was so rewarding! I ended up pursuing an online MFA in Illustration from Academy of Art University, California, and now teach digital art classes at MCC, as well as teaching drawing and sewing classes at the nonprofit studio Creative Arts Inc in Crystal Lake. More recently, I also took on the role of Director of Development at Creative Arts studio. In that job, my tech side and art side come together in creating the website and running the social media aspect of the organization. In my so-called “spare time” I take commissions and create my own art.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I think the biggest struggle for me was making that choice between a full-time job with benefits, to a less lucrative job that makes me truly happy. I’ve been teaching art and working for a nonprofit for about five years now, and it is long hours and less pay… but I’m really satisfied with my decision. I can’t imagine going back to a desk job now – after being in the classroom, inspiring students, teaching them art and graphic design. I love the creative energy, I love the magic of drawing, where you can take a blank piece of paper and a pencil, then create whole worlds from your imagination.
Creative Arts studio – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
At Creative Arts studio I love how inclusive and welcoming it is. Everyone who walks in the door is immediately part of the art community, our “art family”. Our motto is “Build Community – Make Art.” I specialize in drawing and sewing, as well as doing the grant-writing and marketing aspect as Director of Development. I also enjoy making connections with other nonprofits and offering free programs, art scholarships, and so on in our community. We are working with 8 other nonprofits coming up to offer a free Monarch Family Funfair at Main Beach in Crystal Lake, to raise awareness about saving the Monarch Butterfly. That’s going to be August 12th. Creative Arts students are creating artwork to celebrate the Monarchs which will be exhibited at the fair. We are also fortunate to have generous donors to fund our programs and scholarships, including the Crystal Lake Lions Club, The Community Foundation for McHenry County, and many private donors. I am so happy that kids who might not be able to afford art classes can come for free, and families can enjoy many free and low-cost programs as well.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I have to say that is a tough one. I did receive some awards, Adjunct Faculty of the Year at MCC, and being named as an Illinois Artisan by the Illinois State Museum program. I was proud of myself for getting an MFA in Illustration while holding down a full-time job. I’m proud of the murals and signs I’ve painted for different businesses, it is really fun to see your artwork that large and that public, for everyone to enjoy. But really, as a teacher, I’m proudest when my students succeed. I’ve had students come to me and say they now have art careers, or got into a 4-year art college, or sold their artwork, and those are my proudest moments. I felt like I made a difference in their lives. It’s hard to beat that for feeling proud! I always say I have 200 kids, all my art kids from ages 6 to 70, I love seeing them succeed.
- Art Classes from $120/8 weeks
- Art Camps from $190/4 days
- Address: 400 Highland Ave
- Website: www.creativeartsinc.org
- Phone: (815) 219-9243
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/creativeartsclasses
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/Creativeartsart
- Twitter: twitter.com/creativeartsIL
- Yelp: www.yelp.com/biz/creative-arts-crystal-lake-3
Creative Arts staff