Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart go together

Today’s Successful Woman -
Blynda Christian

By Lucy Parker Watkins
McKinney Woman November/December 2006

Visitors to Historic Downtown McKinney may not immediately notice the Art Institute of McKinney’s (AIM) studio and cooperative gallery located on Kentucky Street, but they will see the effects of the unique, creative spirit of its Owner and Director, Blynda Christian.

Christian, an 8-year McKinney resident, mother of three, and grandmother, started her work as an art teacher in her home. Christian opened her first studio in a 400 square foot space on Chestnut Street in November, 2002. At the time, Christian had only eight students and offered basic art courses on a mission to “cultivate, promote, and encourage visual arts while serving artists in the community.”

The meager beginnings of AIM gave no indication of what was to come. Four years later, AIM boasts a 1200 square foot studio and gallery with yearly enrollment averaging well over 1000 students. The course offerings have grown to include painting and drawing classes, weekend workshops, summer camps, portraiture, pottery, printmaking, art history, computer graphics, monthly art exhibits, bi-annual Artist’s Way Workshops, and the increasingly popular Krewe of Barkus Parade during Mardi Gras.

“As varied as the programs are at AIM, our first commitment is to art education for all ages,” according to Christian. “Teaching adults is as important and rewarding as teaching preschoolers.” AIM is more than an art school; it is a community of artists. Twice a year, Christian facilitates The Artist’s Way. The 12-week course teaches how to live more creatively and productively. Participants often develop long-lasting and deep relationships with each other while frequently seeking out Christian as a both a mentor and confidante, crediting her guidance for their personal successes.

“Blynda and AIM have had a lasting, healing, empowering affect on my life. I have seen the same happen for dozens of other people who have wandered, either purposefully or unknowingly, into the Art Institute of McKinney and the healing power of the love and encouragement found within its walls,” commented McKinney muralist and AIM Gallery Member, Amanda Wallace. Christian’s commitment to community and her belief in the healing power of art is also evident in her work with children and adults, especially those experiencing tumultuous and difficult life challenges. In 2004, she began Art from the Heart, a free art program for Katrina Survivors relocated from New Orleans to McKinney. In addition to other community service projects, Christian is currently working in partnership with Boys and Girls Clubs to secure funding for scholarship programs.

“Blynda has a way of taking a dream and a leap of faith and turning it into a reality. I think her drive spreads into the community and inspires others to take the same approach and be successful in what they do. Her students take Artist’s Way and connect with the type of spirit that drives her. Painters gain confidence and become prolific artists,” said Amanda Sayle, AIM Studio Coordinator.

Christian has also been one of the driving forces in the now popular Second Saturday Event. What first began as a single art exhibit visited by friends and family has quickly become a monthly mainstay of downtown McKinney with the participation of merchants, galleries, and restaurants. The popularity of these events is evident by the ever-growing crowds.

“It initially started as simultaneous exhibits in both our gallery and Carrie Garner’s Galleria d’ Arte. When I spoke with Carrie about our monthly exhibits, we realized this could become a regular event benefiting all the merchants on the square,” said Christian.

This unique spirit of cooperation sets Christian apart. While it is common to view similar businesses as competitors, Christian consistently promotes fellowship, recognizing that each business’ success brings more people to the downtown area. When Artist/Owner Sona Knox opened Art House of McKinney, another art education facility, Christian was the first to welcome her. “Blynda sent me a congratulatory email and welcomed me and my business. Later, she included Art House in her press release about Second Saturday and she was the first one to create a map listing all the businesses open those nights. She is very warm and sharing. She has a sense the universe is big enough for everyone versus being competitive and fearful. She is living The Artist’s Way,” Knox said.

“Blynda has done so much to selflessly promote downtown McKinney. For her, it’s not just about promoting the Art Institute,” said D’Vine Wine Manager, Brian Keffer.

As the Art Institute of McKinney continues to grow and flourish so does Christian. Besides creating a business which transcends art education, Christian’s determination, focus, and sense of fellowship is sure to have a long-lasting, positive impact on the City of McKinney. Tamara Paquée, Gallery Director of Galleria d’ Arte said of Christian, “What impressed me the most about Blynda was her passion and commitment for bringing art education to today’s youth. She’s thrown the pebble into the pond and the first ripple began with her first 1000 students. She has planted the seed and continues to nurture it and help it grow now and for future generations. The results of her work are immeasurable at this point.”

Lucy Parker Watkins is a freelance writer and owner/director of Affinity Editing Services in McKinney.