Ann Brucker remembers the disappointment she felt as a 4-year-old girl trying to paint on canvas for the first time. She was looking forward to the satisfaction of applying cadmium red on white canvas, but instead, got a pathetic drizzle of pale pink.
She realized later that her mother had given her tempera paints — a beginner's medium used mostly for craft projects and not always ideal for canvas.
Years later, when Brucker established Mosaic Arts Loft in Sherwood, she made it her mission to develop a curriculum that not only equipped her young students with the basic building blocks they needed to get their desired results, but also the opportunity to use "adult" mediums and techniques typically reserved for more advanced students.
"Young students can paint with oils and can paint with acrylics — you know, all the art mediums that adults use," she said. "That's part of my passion coming through there."
No perfect art allowed
Since 2006, Mosaic has served as a studio, classroom and gallery space for artists of all ages to not only learn basic building blocks like color theory and shapes, but also to develop their own personal styles.
The art space is celebrating its 15-year anniversary this year, making it one of the longest-running businesses in downtown Sherwood, according to Renee Brouse, chief executive officer of the Sherwood Area Chamber of Commerce.
Brucker credits the longevity of the art center to the fact that her curriculum encourages students to grow with the program, rather than just limiting their artistic development to one or two classes.
For Charlotte Rebenstorf, 17, Mosaic has been an integral part of her artistic development since she was in the fifth grade.
One of Brucker's rules for new students is that "no perfect art" is allowed, and rather than cultivating an environment where art is criticized, she instead gives her students the language to express what results they'd like to see in their art.
Rebenstorf said the learning environment at Mosaic is in part why she's stayed with the program for so long.
"It really is just a great environment to create," the Sherwood High School senior said. "She pushes you very nicely and very well, where you're still constantly growing, but it's still very fun. You have that freedom to kind of decide where you want to go with your artistic career."
Rebenstorf started out with the program mostly working with clay, but over the years, she has transitioned more into drawing and painting, winning multiple awards over the years for both mediums.
"It was really cool to see (all my work) pay off through the competition, and just seeing my work feature in that way was very cool to see," she said.
Today, Rebenstorf is considering pursuing a degree in art history.
Brucker says she takes a special interest in her student's careers after they graduate from the program, whether they return to Mosaic as instructors or take their talents elsewhere.
"I just want (the knowledge) to be out there," Brucker said, "so that we can just raise the level of all of our art and creating."
Staying nimble through COVID-19
Classical art training in the West encourages beginners to draw from life, rather than from a photograph that only captures a fleeing movement.
When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down opportunities to meet in person, Brucker knew she had to be nimble to keep her program alive, so like every other school, she pivoted to online learning. But ensuring her virtual classes would have the same impact as her in-person instruction meant taking extra steps.
"We realized before we rolled that out we needed to equip them with an at-home art studio — so we went ahead and purchased art supplies, easels, and storage bags to give to all our students," Brucker told Pamplin Media in 2020.
Sara Leonard started at Mosaic as an online student in 2020. Not having much experience with online art classes, Leonard says she was heartened by the extra time and effort Brucker took to answer questions in a way that was easy for her to understand.
"She was able to make you look at what you were drawing in a different way," Leonard said. "That you would look at each individual part, and then as a whole."
Now after two years with the program Leonard is looking forward to seeing how she grows with Mosaic.
"I'm very excited to have that community in the studio," she said.
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