If you stand still too long around Jackie Wright, you might find yourself being evaluated as a potential piece of art. That’s because Wright tends to see everything around her as a blank canvas, ready to be transformed into an object of beauty for everyone to admire. She does not need a regulation square of blank paper or cloth to begin envisioning her creations. Walls, doors, mailboxes, stone patio floors, furniture, and even utility meters do not escape her eye. “It doesn’t seem to take much to inspire me,” Wright said. “The world would be a very dull place without art.”
Wright, who has lived in Seymour for about 16 years, creates in all directions. For her business “Creative Designs,” she paints murals. She also teaches summer art classes in her business “Creative Kids.” During the school year, she is an art teacher at Carter Elementary School in Knox County. When she’s not doing any of that, or spending time with her husband Jeff and two sons, Jacob and Justin, she finds spare time to paint for herself. All this makes for a pretty busy life. “My husband tolerates my art and my messes,” she said. “I think he appreciates my art even though he may not always get it.”
Wright’s classroom at Carter is easy to find. She wants to make sure everyone, students and parents alike, know they’re approaching a realm of color and design. “My principal allowed me to paint my door like “Starry Night,” she explained, referring to one of Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous works. “My room’s entrance is outside by the student drop-off point, so it’s visible to everyone.” She also painted a mural along the wall approaching her classroom, so students walking toward the door get a complete, art-filled experience just by reaching the door.
Her eye for noting images and objects within the lines and colors of the things she sees around her is expressed in her own work. “I have been taking a series of photos of trees and rocks that I can see images in (mostly faces),” she said. She took an “amazing” picture of a rock last summer near Ya Hoo Falls in Kentucky which she says shows “hidden pictures” from several different angles. “It has inspired me to be more observant of all trees and rocks,” she explained.
She’s a typical artist in some ways – “I don’t throw anything away,” she laughs – and she turned a huge piece of packing paper from a box of art supplies into her next batch of homemade paper. That turned into three more sculptural paintings. She lets her summer art camp students make and use homemade paper as well. “It helps save the environment, and it’s very versatile,” she explained. “We took newspaper strips, mixed it with bright-colored construction paper, soaked it in water, and put it in a blender.” Sounds like fun.
Wright knows that subjects like music and art are often in danger when schools face tough budget decisions. That seemed to be the case when she graduated from East Tennessee State University with a degree in Art Education. She may not have started out teaching art to children right away, but she managed to keep creating art nevertheless. She worked for awhile as a window designer, creating fashion displays for a retailer and was promoted to store manager. She also worked as a training manager for Dress Barn in Pigeon Forge, where new managers were sent to her for two-week training stints.
Her week-long summer art camps are usually a mix of new and returning students; and Wright keeps her plans and projects versatile, presenting new ideas and different themes often. Students attend for three hours per day, and Wright encourages them to let their imaginations take over. This year her June class explored a Mexican art theme, learning about artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, while students in her July class studied modern art. “They listened to the Beatles while painting their ‘Peter Max’ style art, and learned about Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol as inspiration for their own creations,” Wright explained. “Children are very open to learning,” Wright said. “I motivate – they create.”
“Children’s styles seem to vary as much as their personalities,” Wright said. “I have showcased my students’ work at the Seymour Library and the Citizen’s National Bank.” Other venues for her students have included Representative Dunn’s home in Nashville, the Knox County and City building, and several area restaurants. Wright also enters students’ work in art contests whenever possible.
You may have seen Wright’s own art at places around town. Her murals, mostly of mountains, creeks, oceans, and children, grace the walls of the Seymour Pediatric Clinic, Foothills Family Practice, Seymour Intermediate and Halls Elementary Schools, and the Seymour Community Church. And, of course, her house. The home studio where she teaches, formerly a garage, includes an outdoor scenic mural along one entire wall, as well as many pieces of her art. “It gets very cluttered, but I feel it inspires all the budding artists.”
And if Disney is ever lucky enough to hire Hannah or another of Wright’s students, they would probably agree.
Coloring her world