Art Supply Insiders Podcast

ASI 53 Smart with Art, Interview with Amy Friedman, Founder and President

December 26, 2022 Jeff Morrow
Art Supply Insiders Podcast
ASI 53 Smart with Art, Interview with Amy Friedman, Founder and President
Show Notes Transcript

Amy Friedman is the Founder and President of Smart with Art. It is a mobile art education company offering high-quality art education programming in schools and community centers throughout Washington. Smart with Art has expanded offerings to include virtual classes, workshops, parties and more. They are reaching students, both children and adults, nationwide and worldwide with our online education offerings.
Our mission is to put art into many children’s hands as possible!
To see more about Smart with Art click here

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Jeff: 0:07

Welcome back to Art Supply Insiders. My name is Jeff Morrow, and today we're talking with Amy Friedman. And Amy is the founder and president of Smart With Art. Amy, did I butcher your name at all

Amy: 0:21

there? You did not. You got it right.

Jeff: 0:23

Well, welcome to the show and thank you for taking the time to talk

Amy: 0:26

to. Yeah, I was excited to be here. Thank you for having me.

Jeff: 0:30

So tell us a little bit something about what is smart with art?

Amy: 0:35

Okay, well, smart with Art started in 2010. I'm an art educator. I've been teaching since 1994, and I had parents coming to me once my kids were in. Elementary School. So friends coming to me in Washington State and saying, Hey, why do, why don't we have art in my school? Why don't we have art in my school? And I quickly realized, well, I realized this as soon as I moved to Washington State, but not all elementary schools have art educators. And I found that there was gonna be a niche to fill this, and I really wanted to make sure our kids, especially at the elementary, were able to have an opportunity to have art education in their school. Yeah. And so I collaborated with some other art educators and I started the company Smart with Art to bring art into schools. And it was mostly through afterschool programs as well as daytime programming and becoming. Quote, unquote, the art teacher at a school. And this became an affordable model for many schools.

Jeff: 1:35

Wow. So what gave you this idea? How did it, how did it percolate in your

Amy: 1:41

head? Well, I would say I've always been entrepreneurial, so I've always kind of, I started out by moving to Seattle, doing a party business. Mm-hmm. and doing art parties for kids. I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. And I just realized my passion and the need for art for kids, I could put all these pieces together and build a business. So that was kind of where it all started.

Jeff: 2:05

Yeah, so smart because you know, it just seems like art in, especially in our younger children, is, is going further away and, and we really need to. get that back into our schools and back into our educations. Right? Totally

Amy: 2:23

agree. Yeah, I totally agree. That's kind of my mission.

Jeff: 2:26

So taking a look at your website, I see this thing called an art bus. What the heck is an art bus Well,

Amy: 2:35

so when I started smart with Art, I kind of had this vision, and this is really been going back to 2010 of having an art bus as part of Smart with. And if you think back you know, I'm a child of the seventies and if I think back to growing to elementary school, the bus, the book mobile would pull up Yeah. That week. That's right. And this is kind of prior to Scholastic book Fair, coming into your school and setting up now in the library. But at that time, a book mobile would pull up. And park there for the whole week. And I just thought it was the coolest thing when I was in second and third grade to be able to do that and get on that book mobile. And I was like, wow, wouldn't it be cool if I could go to schools and bring art to schools? And so I had this vision of kind of gutting out a school bus for many years and tried very, you know, several tactics of how to get the bus and raising funds and even down to making it one round into Shark Tank. Different, different ways to do it. And then finally, I did get away into a school district and was able to purchase a bus in 2018 and purchased the bus, gutted the bus, and then refurbished it and had it ready to go. Guess what date? March 13th, 2020. That was the, the, the grand opening of the bus. So that was Covid o's you know, shutdown. So the bus was ready to go, and then we kind of had a year hiatus and began switching everything around and teaching online and not doing much yet on the bus. So the bus kind of re, you know, configured itself and now it's up and going. But yeah, so that was kind of the way. It started, I would say,

Jeff: 4:11

wow, your timing was impeccable, wasn't it? So let me go back a little bit. So tell us a little bit about your art education. Are you formally trained or did you just, were you just born with an innate talent?

Amy: 4:28

Well, I, I was probably born with some sort of talent. I have a lot of art in our family, but I went to undergraduate for design and art history. and wasn't really sure where I was gonna land. And then was at a school for maybe six months and I was working in New York City and I decided I was gonna go back for grad school and went to Columbia University at Teacher's College for a master's in art education. And that was probably one of the best moves I ever made. Because now I had the formal education, I was able to do what I wanted to do. Although I was influenced by many of my art teachers throughout my, you know, K through 12 career. Now I had the formal training to. Move forward effectively.

Jeff: 5:05

Wow. So let's talk a little bit about if, if people wanted to see this art bus and that they wanted to go and, and read a little bit more, and we'll talk about this at the end also, that where can they go to see more about this?

Amy: 5:21

I would go first to our website, which is smart with art.net. Mm-hmm. and there is a link for the art bus on there. Okay. And then we also are, have pretty strong presence on Facebook and Instagram under Smart with Art. And we're constantly posting on those two site, you know, those two social media platforms to provide information of everything that we do. Obviously it's somewhat localized based on where the bus can go and can't go, but Right. We're in the greater Seattle area serving. You know, as many students as we can through schools, workshops, birthday parties, homeschool classes, summer camps. So it's basically become like an adjunct to. The company's smart with art that operates in schools now we're have this other vehicle that we can operate out of.

Jeff: 6:07

Wow. So when I, when I looked on your website, you had a lot of programs. So this took a lot to make it come to reality. How did you get all of it to come to reality and, and, and get the visibility?

Amy: 6:18

I think because I had that vision, eight plus years. Yes. I had, you know, I had vision boards, I had drawings done. I, I really kind of knew what I wanted to do and really what ideally I wanna do with the bus is to be able to go to underserved schools that can't afford programming. Mm-hmm. And I wanna be able to provide that to at least four schools a year where I can be there, whether it's one full day and just kind of roll as many kids through the bus as possible on a. and if not more, you know, in addition to doing the events that are paid, you know, where it is an income. So it's kind of a thing, a community vehicle that I can be able to give back from our business.

Jeff: 6:58

Wow, that's, that's really cool. And you know, that's the kind of thing that you really see. In the art industry is we have so many artists and crafters that like giving back to the underprivileged to the seniors. You know, thank you for what you're doing. This is

Amy: 7:15

great. Yeah. No, I appreciate it. So what types,

Jeff: 7:19

what types of services do you offer on the

Amy: 7:21

bus? So on the bus right now we're doing, we do homeschool classes. Mm-hmm. we do workshops where people can hire us to do a workshop. We do afterschool classes and then most and birthday parties is really a big thing. Oh super. About the birthday party is we can pull up to someone's house. The kids, you know, in most cases don't spend as much time in the parent, you know, in the family's home, which makes the parents happy. And it's something different and new, so it's not something everyone's done before. So it's kind of fun.

Jeff: 7:52

So kind of give our audience an idea of some of the art that you do. I mean, do you use sculpting, painting, drawing? What exactly do you do?

Amy: 8:01

Well, we pretty much can do we, it's outfitted where we can do a ton of stuff, which is kind of surprising without a sink So we have access to water. I use like a big, huge water jug and you know, a lot of times I'm taking things home to wash 'em at home. But we pretty much manage everyth. From, we just did DuPage and clay and collage and chalk, pastel and color pencils and markers and watercolors and temper paint and acrylic paint. You know, canvas painting. So there's not much of a limit, to be honest. I mean, it gets messy, but it's. Can be cleaned up.

Jeff: 8:35

Well, that's part of learning, isn't it? Exactly. You gotta get messy. Exactly. Yeah. Before you can create. So I know that in order to do something like this, that you, you really need some help from some manufacturers, and I believe you've partnered with Faber Castell. Can you tell us a little bit about that partnership and who, Faber Castell.

Amy: 8:57

Sure. Faber Castell is a European art brand that has, they're based in the states as well, but that's where they began. And they have many different lines from like what they call their red line, which is their children's line, all the way up to fine artists, high-end materials. And I, I just decided that it would be really neat if I could partner. An art supply provider that I would be able to use their art supplies on the bus and promote their art supplies as well as they're promoting the art bus. So it was kind of like hand in hand. And I mentioned it to, I made some contacts at different conferences and I mentioned it to the contact and it was like, thumbs up, let's go. So Faber Castell helped wrap the bus. You know, which is the graphics on the exterior of the bus. Yeah. As well as funds, all the art supplies on the bus. And then their logo is also on the exterior of the bus, so they're getting some publicity there. I also really have to believe in the supplies that I'm using. Mm-hmm. So I really, really do believe in this supply line. This brand is super high quality. As I mentioned, I've taught since 1994. I've used many different brands and there's many good products out there, but across the board, this product line is phenomenal and so I'm proud to be able to use that. And then another nice perk is they'll send me sample products that I can give out at events. Mm. And then we can give out coupon codes to offer discounts when people go to their website. So they're ki it's kind of a win-win. I see it as it's been a great relationship. and that relationship developed into, I'm now the educational ambassador for Faber Castell. Oh. And so I'm now also doing some workshops for them and blog posts for them in the education field, which is, you know, great. So I can share exactly what I'm doing on the bus with. the greater public.

Jeff: 10:56

Wow. So you are the educational ambassador, is that what you said? Correct, yes. And well, I happen to know Faber Castell quite well. I was, before I was in the art industry, I was in the office products industry. So they've got a very big name there. And obviously I've known them in the art industry. So is there a place that. People can go to see more of your art ambassadorship for Faber Castell on YouTube or any place like

Amy: 11:26

that? It's not really on YouTube. We do have a YouTube channel for Smart with art, but Huh. Mostly just through Faber Castell, their website. There is blog posts under, you know, if there's any kid activities. So I'm doing two a month where I'm providing art activities, curriculum. Okay. Lesson plans and ideas. And then I also do professional development with educators, which is kind of another gig, but it all, again, ties together. So all of these pieces, it's another where I'm going out and teaching teachers about art education, but I tie in Faber Costello again into that. But it's fully like a separate thing, of course, but that's kinda fun too. Course. So I can reach art educators, I can reach children, I can reach parents through. the blog posts or if I'm attending a specific event that I'm asked to attend, it may be an art conference, you know, as a vendor. Mm-hmm. and then presenting to art teachers. And that, like I mentioned to you prior, Jeff, I'm gonna be at the National Art Education Association Conference Awesome. In San Antonio this year, and I'll be doing a presentation. About this part Faber Castell partnership and creating the art bus.

Jeff: 12:39

So, if, if there are art teachers or teachers out there in our audience that would like to learn more about what you have to offer or some of the ideas that you have, what is the best way for them to get in touch with you?

Amy: 12:55

I would say go to smart with art.net and there there is an info button and you can reach us directly through. I'm happy to take direct emails, which is am y Amy Smart with art.net. I'm happy to help parents and educators and getting information out there as my passion is to get art into children's hands. So anyway, I'm able to do that. These are all these avenues I'm using to do that. Wow. If that makes

Jeff: 13:20

sense. Oh, that, that, that makes perfect sense. And what, what a wonderful thing that you're doing. And tell us how do they see you on YouTube? Do you have a YouTube page for Smart with Art? Yes. It's also

Amy: 13:30

under Smart With Art. Okay.

Jeff: 13:33

And that's just video.

Amy: 13:33

That's, but most of those videos are gonna be on our website. There's some free art lessons right on our website under some art dot. And then the other thing I would say is to follow us on social media because we're always, you know, it's a daily situation of posts and seeing other art. And I, I follow so many other art teachers and get ideas and so I welcome other art teachers and parents and children to follow because I feel like it's an inspiration to see. Other students

Jeff: 14:00

work. Boy. No kidding. Now, one of the things that I saw on your website is that you smart with art offers, scholarships, is, did I read that right?

Amy: 14:13

Yeah. So my mission, as I mentioned, is to put art into children's hands. I will never turn away a student if they wanna take our classes. And so if we work with a school, often a school will. kind of work 50 50 with us to fund a student. Mm-hmm. But in all likelihood, if someone wants to take one of our classes, we're gonna make it work for them. So in terms of scholarship, it could be anywhere from 25% to 90%. We usually just ask that they kind of put some skin in the game and show, you know, if they can fund some of the art supplies that we're gonna be using just to cover the costs. So the materials, the ex, you know, usable pieces that they're gonna be using. Sure. That's all we ask. So sometimes it's just, you know, 15 to 20% of the cost.

Jeff: 14:59

Wow. That's so co. And there was another thing called art ology. What is Art Ology?

Amy: 15:07

So that kind of came up during C O V. We wanted to create an art kit, but more of an educational piece. Mm-hmm. So these are curriculum. that you can order where you get six lessons and it comes with videos and the actual lesson plans, and it's really like probably geared for like a parent or a teacher to work with the student. So we, we provide 'em with a PowerPoint presentation for the student. We provide 'em with the lesson plan that's, you know, a pdf. And then there's videos with tips and tricks, and then all the materials are sent to them. And then there's six lessons that they can create within that. And there's different, it's based on grade levels and materials. So we were just trying to come up with something that was a little bit more educational in terms of an art. For students that were looking for art over covid, and that kind of became a success and we were doing a lot of that. And now we've just kept that going.

Jeff: 16:03

Well. Well, so it certainly sounds like you have a passion for what you do. What, what is it you like best about what you do?

Amy: 16:10

I really like all the, all the different avenues I can go. And I love that as my career has evolved, it changes, you know, now I'm working with art educators or I've partnered with an art company. So it's gone beyond just teaching in the art classroom. And I, and I, I'm very obviously passionate about it and I just wanna be able to bring my skills to as many students as I can. So it's exciting. And I, and I also love with smart, with Art. I like right now. 15 educators working with me, going out into schools, bringing art. And one thing as an art teacher, you're very isolated in a school. Mm-hmm. And this is a great way to build a community of artists and art educators through smart with art. So that's been fabulous too for me. And for the teachers to be able to collaborate together and have that space. So, Huge, because as an art teacher, you're kind of usually the oddball out in a school. Unfortunately,

Jeff: 17:11

Yep. Yep. You're, you're one of those people that, oh, you're an artist. Okay. I know. Yeah. All right, I get you. So, yep. So what do you think has been your best achievement so far?

Amy: 17:23

I think the art bus was a big feather in my cap because it was something I wanted, so, so, and I wasn't really sure how, what road I was gonna take to get that, but it worked. Mm-hmm. and then finding that partnership with Faber Castell really helped cover the costs, mm-hmm. and really helped fund it. So it was ki it, like, to me that was a win-win. Mm-hmm. And right now, you know, quite honestly, it may not be doing every single thing I imagined it would do, but that's okay. It's operating and it's functioning and it's serving kids and that was really the main goal. And it may change as I. You know, to serve in a different way.

Jeff: 17:59

Of course. And I'm, I'm sure you are looking for other manufacturers that could step up to the plate and help all of these children just as Faber Castell is.

Amy: 18:12

Yeah. I'm happy to work with other people. I mean, fabri Costell covers a lot of the ground, but they don't cover everything. Yeah. You know, I don't, I'm dealing with my own paper manufacturer, you know, paper and glue and. There's just things they don't make, you know, and I do use a lot of their products, but the door is always open and I am always looking for things like that because to me it's a way, as I mentioned, if I believe in it and I in that product and I can share it, it's only spreading it, you know, it's spreading that information. Yeah. And a lot of times, like I've noticed kids don't know this, didn't know about Faber Costello cause it's not used in a lot of schools. But I'm working on doing that and getting it out.

Jeff: 18:54

So just an oddball question here. Do you, do you take any pictures of any of the art that these kids do and publish it on your website or on social media or anything like that? It, it would be kind of cool to see

Amy: 19:09

that, yeah, it's all over social media. That's pretty much what we're posting is the kids' artwork on social media. And we'll often say, you know, fourth grade chalk pastel. So you get an idea of the age of the. and the materials that are being used, but that's most of what's being posted. As well as there's pictures on our website, you know, where you can see kids at work and what their work is. Wow. I guess the foundation is I've, because I was in the classroom for many years, I then had a tried and true art curriculum and that our curriculum has then in turn been built up for smart with. And so it's kind of like the backbone to this whole company. I know that this is an integrated curriculum that grows with the child that works and meets all the national standards that I'm really proud to produce and have out there so that when I say, you know, chalk pastel grade four, it, it's, it's age appropriate, these pro projects and also incorporating a lot of art history and cultural. As well as art concepts along with the materials.

Jeff: 20:07

Well, it sounds like you're an incredible entrepreneur. Wh what do you want to do next with all of this? Or is it something different in the art? In, in, in the, in the art industry,

Amy: 20:20

I think I'll st, I mean, I'll always stay in the art industry. I can't really veer away from it. I just go down different avenues. I'd love to be able to produce with the curriculum I have. Packaged kits with, you know, different product manufacturers. So my goal is really to work as an art educator and be a guide for products and manufacturers. And I've just seen through the years that a lot of times you would think in an art company or a company that's producing art supplies, they would have connections with art teachers and they don't always have. And so that's connections that I would love to be making because I feel like I am an asset in that way because I've used the supplies firsthand with kids. Well,

Jeff: 21:06

I, I can't tell you how happy Dave and I are that. You are out there and you are promoting art to the next generation because, you know, we just don't see the next generation getting this kind of instruction very often.

Amy: 21:27

Yeah, no, I appreciate it and I really feel like it's vital and it's vital to social, emotional, mental health for children these days, and I just feel like it has to be a part of their curriculum. and that. So my mission is to make sure we are in schools.

Jeff: 21:45

So if you said you had no problem with people, if they wanted to email, can you give your email address again?

Amy: 21:52

Sure, absolutely. I love people to contact me and I love making connections this way. It's amy@smartwithart.net, S m A R t W I T H A R t dot. N e t

Jeff: 22:08

net and if they want to go to your website. That's smart. With art.net? Correct. And you are on all of the different social media sites. You're on Facebook, Twitter, all of that kind of stuff.

Amy: 22:23

Correct. All under Smart with Art.

Jeff: 22:26

and if they want to see some of the things that you've done, they can go to YouTube, correct?

Amy: 22:31

Correct. There's some videos of free, there's, you know, free lessons and they're also, those free lessons are also on our website. But we store them and house them. We don't use our YouTube, but people find it

Jeff: 22:43

more than you would think. Well, Amy, is there anything I've forgotten

Amy: 22:47

to ask you? I don't think so. It was a pleasure talking to you. And you know, I really love what I do and I feel so fortunate to be able to do this and to move into the different roads I've taken with smart, with art and with art education as being a career. I never really thought. it would go beyond just being an art teacher. And it really has, and I'm proud of that. And I wanna just continue to put art into kill, you know, into kids' hands.

Jeff: 23:14

Well, we we couldn't be happier to be, to support you in any way that we possibly can. And again, to our audience out there that's smart with. Dot net. And this is a resource that if you're considering this in your community, especially in the Seattle area, you really need to get in contact with Amy. And if for any of you in the rest of the world, if you have questions, I'm sure Amy would be more than happy to chat with you.

Amy: 23:45

Absolutely, absolutely.

Jeff: 23:48

Amy, this time went by really, really fast. Thank you so much for being on the.

Amy: 23:52

Yeah. Thank you for having me. I really enjoyed it.

Jeff: 23:55

Oh gosh. It's it. It's our pleasure. So you've been listening to Art Supply Insiders. Check back with us often as we talk about the world of art and craft supplies. If you'd like to hear more of these podcasts, please hit the subscribe button. We'd love it if you'd tell a friend if you'd like to show your support. Please do consider joining our Patreon campaign at patreon.com/art Supply insiders now go out and create something.