I am beyond thrilled today to introduce you to my friend and art teacher extraordinaire, Kim Poler. She is the most innovative and enterprising woman I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, and the visionary behind Beehive Art studio in Wayland, Massachusetts. Kim never ever ceases to amaze me with her energy and her plethora of process-art ideas. Her Instagram feed is one of my top go-to places when I need ideas. I think what impresses me most about Kim is the playfulness and joy oozing from her countenance. She truly loves what she does.
Bar: Tell me about your family and where you live.
Kim: I live in Hudson, Massachusetts, with my husband, Marc, our two kids, Eli (23) and Georgia (18), and our hound dog, Buddy Poppers (12). I’ve lived in the Boston area for thirty-plus years. We moved out of the city fourteen years ago to a sweet old house with a yard and a clothes line, a driveway and crickets. We are surrounded by orchards and can slip into Boston at a moments notice.
Bar: Your home sounds so idyllic. How great to have the best of both worlds – country and close to city. Do you have an art space in your home – or did you – for your own kids? Or do you like to keep it separate (if that is even possible!)
YES! Growing up we had a room (which we called the beehive) to draw, paint, sew, make models, and just create. As an adult, I have always had a space to make art in my home. At times it’s been just a workbench for myself and an easel in the kitchen for the kids. Now I have a space I mostly use for my sewing (pillows, mobiles, curtains) and stitching. If I need to silk screen, print, paint, or really want to submerge in my work, I’ll head to the studio.
Bar: When and how did you open your art studio?
Kim: I opened Beehive Art the fall of 2007. I had been teaching art in public and private schools for 20 years. The timing seemed right for me make a change and there wasn’t anything like what I envisioned for kids in this area. I’ve since moved from the original studio to a much smaller space in Wayland, which is the next town over and about thirty minutes from Boston. We are very happy there.
Bar: Wow, it’s been nine years now! It’s interesting that you moved from a bigger space to a smaller space, usually it’s the other way around! Tell me about how you first started – what was your schedule and did you have help – versus what your days look like today. Have things changed much over the past 9 years?
Kim: When we first opened I ran classes Monday through Friday. I’d have mommy/me classes in the mornings followed by 4-year old classes just after lunch. We offered two or three classes for ages 5-9, and one 9 and up (just thinking about that is exhausting). We also had birthday parties Saturdays and Sundays. We worked a ton (we had a huge overhead) but it was mostly fun and rewarding. The community loved the studio. I was really fortunate that three high school freshman found me and they jumped in to help out with the afternoon classes and on weekends. They continued to work with us for years. Mostly, Marc and I would run the classes. One of us was always present at the studio.
When we moved, our rent decreased considerably. We were able to lower our class, workshop, and party fees. I also offer less studio classes and take Beehive on the road, offering Art Enrichment in Brookline, Lincoln, Concord and Wayland. It seems to work really well for families. The kids stay put at school, I pack up my car with art materials, and parents pick them up after an hour class. We still host birthday parties and workshops at the studio. I mostly teach all of the classes solo, unless its a large group and then I’ll call in my worker bees.
Bar: How many classes do you teach per week?
Kim: I teach anywhere between 8 – 10 classes a week, with an occasional open studio or workshop.
Bar: Do you have a background in art or teaching?
Kim: I graduated from Boston University, School of Fine Arts, as a Sculpture major. After graduation, I started teaching in an elementary school in Brookline in their after-school program. I offered summer art workshops out of my home when Eli was really little. When he started kindergarten, I taught art enrichment at his school in Cambridge. In summertime, we headed back to my home in Rowayton, Connecticut, and spent many summers collaborating with Susanna Carrillo (owner of the one-time fabulous art studio Paper Scissors Oranges in Darien, CT, and long time friend). We ran a great summer art program in Rowayton and then in her Darien studio.
I have taught numerous classes, workshops and hosted dozens of birthday parties at Beehive Art. We participated in Boston’s First Night for 10 years, offering a creative workshop to hundreds of attendees. We continue to work with local charities and organizations to spread the love for kids making art.
Bar: That’s so interesting, Samara from Purple Twig (my first Art Educator interviewee) also has a background in sculpture. I’m starting to realize what a valuable background that is when working with children, because kids love to build stuff. And I see how you bring your sculpture work into your curriculum. You have worked with kids for so many years, do you find that your approach or technique has changed at all during that time? What have you learned from all of those summer camps, classes, birthday parties, and events?
Kim: That’s a good question. I think above and beyond anything is that I have learned to let go of a lot and let things unfold more organically. I follow the kids leads and am much more relaxed with that and the process. We all have a lot of fun at Beehive, myself included. It’s a must! It’s a really fun place to be and I want people to feel that the minute they walk through the door.
I enjoy what I do so much more now than I did when we first started. Partially because I’m not under the pressure to work all the time (although I swear I still do!!). I manage my time differently. I’ve had the time to create the Beehive Shop with open-ended art kits for kids called Art Box, which has been a huge goal for me. I hand print all of our beehive tee shirts (our best advertising ever) which we tie dye by the dozen during Summer Art. We take Beehive on the road to workshops and events in Boston, Brookline, Concord and Lincoln. I also enjoy working with a home for teenage moms in Worcester. This past summer I traveled with Phoenica Flea and offered sweet summertime art in the Catskills. I’m always open and up for new adventures with Beehive. I think that’s a sign of the times.
Bar: Do you have a philosophy?
Kim: It’s all about the kids. I say it over and over. Seriously, down to the nitty and the gritty. Yes, of course I want to expose kids to the sheer joy of creative expression and enhance their imaginations, but if I have created a space where they feel empowered and good about themselves as they navigate their worlds, I’m a happy girl.
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Thank you so much, Kim, for taking the time to talk with me. I am in awe of your one-woman-show, and I loved hearing about the incredible journey you’ve had in arts education. Now I just need to hop in the car and come visit you!!
I’m sure Kim would love to hear from you, so leave any comments or questions below!