Karin Calabrese

senior, painting, B.F.A.
Billings, MT


By Carmen Price, University Relations and Communications


Karin painting a holiday imageWhy do you make art?

“My mother was an artist, so I grew up around art. As long as I can remember, I’ve been painting. Always. Now later in life, I decided I didn’t want to not follow my passion and do something just for the money. So, I sold my business of 10 years to follow my heart and do what makes me happy, which is making art. “

What inspires your art?

“I draw on personal experiences. I think art is all about self-expression—what we feel, what we experience—and then communicating that. Art is its own form of language.

“Sometimes it’s hard to convey these experiences, but that is just another reason why I make art. Sometimes you get a sensation when you look at a piece or create a piece, a feeling beyond words. Although, my art history teacher would say that that is why we are here: to verbalize that feeling and experience.”

What do you find most rewarding about being an artist?

“There is a certain thing that happens when you’re engaged with art. It sings to your heart. It’s a connection with the medium, but also a connection with the audience. I’ve learned making art isn’t just for you. It’s also about evoking some kind of response from others.”

“I hope people receive my art as encouragement. For me art is healing. I hope to speak to people who are going through hard times.”

Karin with Chancellor NookOne of your watercolor paintings was recently selected for the cover art for the annual chancellor’s holiday card. Can you describe the piece?

“The painting is titled ‘Rebirth.’ It was from a series following my mother’s recent passing. I walked my mother through Hospice, and watched her soul leaving, in my estimation. The piece really is about her soul leaving. The dove represents her leaving us and going to heaven, being in the presence of God. It’s something horrific in humanity that we have to experience death, but there can be joy in it too. And that’s where rebirth comes in.”

“There is beauty in the everyday, and beauty in the trials and tragedies in life.”

Did you find it daunting as a nontraditional student to come back to school?

“Yes, definitely. I was worried about how I would fit in, if I’d be able to write papers again and how I would keep up with everything. But I got over that. I thought I’d be the old lady, but that’s not the case. One young lady even said to me, ‘You know, sometimes I forget that you’re old. You’re just like one of us.’ That was like one of the best compliments ever.”

“There are students who really engage in and understand the value of an education. But, I think that as you mature, you understand it even more so.”

Did your family support your decision to sell your business to pursue your art degree?

“My husband and three daughters (ages 22, 25, and 26) have all been very supportive. I think it’s important to them that I’m happy. One daughter said to me, ‘I’m so glad that you’re happy.’”

“I think overall they’re also really proud. My daughters have always inspired me, and now I think maybe I’m an inspiration for them that I’m following my heart and passion.”

“I’ve always told them to follow their hearts and to find out who they are. There is something inside us all and something we are all made to do.”