As she combs through the fluorescently lit aisles of Hobby Lobby looking for large tubes of acrylic paint and yards of canvas, Carol Schieszer prepares to restock her art supplies drawers and see the smiles she brings to her students in her studio – her attic
Schieszer is the owner of the eclectic home studio called “Art in the Attic.” The walls are painted all colors of the rainbow and crammed with 17 years’ worth of student-made specific projects, like tin can cars and beaded jewelry.
Teaching art skills to children in a bohemian-esque art studio was something that had never crossed Schieszer’s mind when she first graduated her two-year stint at KU as a fine arts major.
Schieszer’s work hasn’t always been this way — for years she worked teaching children’s art workshops . But those couldn’t compare to the joy of having her own art studio allowing her to teach kids to make “fabulous” pillows and feed them copious amounts of Welch’s fruit snacks.
“I never really had a career plan,” Schieszer said. “I just knew I wanted to be an artist and had always loved working with children.”
After she graduated from college, Schieszer worked as a children’s teacher in the Creative Arts Center at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and learned new aspects of art history and techniques — like the perfect brush for painting leaves — which inspired her to teach her own class.
While she had garnered the efficient skills and strategies to aide all types of kids, from quiet to extremely brash, she wasn’t completely satisfied. Scheiszer yearned to teach art in a more unstructured, creative environment, rather than in a classroom-style art class.
“I’m very thankful I never got a teaching degree because I am not a very trainable person,” Schieszer said “I’d rather teach art in a more unstructured environment because kids needs a place to express their creativity.”
She renovated her own department — she transformed her cobweb covered attic into a personal art studio. Next, she renovated the attic into a children-friendly classroom that would become her part time job. In 2002, she started part-time and later that year she quit her job to begin working in her attic full time.
With every week came a new addition, whether it was adding wood slabs or hanging up dragonfly sculptures, or even cutesifying her son’s “upstairs hang-out area”.
“When I was younger, I used to sometimes think it was an invasion of privacy, but I always loved having a space to create,” son Kurt Schieszer said.
A typical session would begin with a brief explanation of the upcoming project along with a demonstration, and then she’d leave the rest of the time for creativity.
“I do have some boundaries in place, but I’m not going to enforce one of the kids to stay in his seat and be quiet, that’s not what I am about,” Schieszer said.
Some ground rules include working on the given project and — when needed — volume control.
“It just makes [me] teary how much I see happiness and joy I bring to these kids, because life can be so stressful, even for kids.” Schieszer said.
Walking into “Ms. Carol’s” house invites a sense of relief and excitement for her students, according to former student Riley McCullough. Instead of walking into a pre-set chair-and-desk classroom, her students walk through the plexiglass door and up the creaky orange stairs to the loft. The 10-inch-thick table, stacked with dry paint buildup, takes up most of the room.
“When I would go to Ms. Carol’s house, she made me more comfortable with messing up and learning to appreciate myself for my mistakes” says McCullough.
The designated area in the front of her attic overflows with thank-you notes and cards, thanking “Ms. Carol” for painting their faces with smiles. Being able to constantly spread love and light to her students is what makes Schieszer continue to teach kids the true meaning of art and what it takes to be kind to one another.
“Ms. Carol is one of a kind, and sometimes I would go to classes just to be in her presence,” McCullough said
Whether it’s through her wacky sayings, high pitched screams of encouragement or just the warm embrace of her hugs, she brings lightness and creativity to all of her students’ lives.
Now that she has nearly 18 years of teaching, she has no other desire than to keep on creating and inspiring.
“Art in the Attic I literally can’t get enough of,” Schieszer said, “It makes me want to love more, laugh more and live my life to the fullest.”