Walk into Kaleidoscope School of Fine Art (KSOFA) on any given day and you’ll find a friendly and lively group of instructors and student artists from all walks of life—creating, laughing, and sharing confidences. And while the social aspect is an important aspect for participants, the students and teachers are serious about their art, striving to learn and improve, and dedicated to the people they spend hours with every week—through all of life’s ups and downs.
After founder Jill Funk relocated from Cleveland to Barrington, it didn’t take very long for her to open her home to teach clay classes to adults and children. Twenty years later, in 1986, Funk partnered with her Art in the Barn co-founder Carolyn Husemoller. They moved her classes to “the little blue house on Cook Street” and Kaleidoscope was born.
“My vision was to have a school that offered more than just clay,” says Funk. She added drawing, painting, photography, and many other medias to the class offerings. Her vision was realized and continues to expand. Seven years ago, the school relocated again to a larger house at 316 West Main Street that KSOFA calls home today.
As an accomplished clay artist herself (among other mediums) Funk has always had a passion for both creating art and sharing her love of the process with others.
KSOFA currently offers art classes to students starting at age 4 up to adults of any age. Many start in preschool and continue through high school. General 6-week class offerings include clay art (one taught by Funk), drawing (both beginning and advanced), graphic art, mosaics, mixed media, watercolors, and acrylic, oil and palette knife painting. Other imaginative class offerings range from Wild Animal Portraits and Dynamic Dogs-Cute/Funny Dog Paintings to Pokemon & More Cartooning Fun! and Quirky Clay. One time workshops (typically 3 hours in length) such as Clay Day and Painting Day are also popular. And summer camps are a big draw.
“Our philosophy is for our teachers to come alongside each student to guide and develop their creative potential by teaching the methods of fine art fundamentals,” Funk says.
Art instructors at KSOFA are dedicated artists and teachers. Many have been with the school for at least a decade, with some teaching since the late 80s and early 90s. “We are like a family,” says Funk.
And Funk is a perpetual teacher and student herself, continuing to teach clay sculpture and participating in painting classes at KSOFA. She helps organize workshops offered at the school, which feature both local and national artists. “We are thrilled to announce that abstract artist Barb Rydz Ross will be leading a workshop from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 1 to teach some of her techniques with texture, collage, and depth,” says Funk. “Sign ups will be online starting January 15th.”
Last July, Barrington’s White House showcased Funk’s art at its monthly Third Thursday artist event. But for her, the most gratification she receives is from the impact art makes on Kaleidoscope’s students.
“It is so miraculous to see what art can do,” Funk explains. “It is important for us to serve and educate our community members of all ages and abilities. Art is so therapeutic; it’s been proven that it helps your brain. Creating art has the same effect on preserving intellectual health as exercise does for our physical health. For this reason our outreach programs within several senior centers and local schools are vital partners to our goals.”
According to Funk, several students have been prescribed art classes by their doctors as physical therapy. “Some of my students come in the door to heal physical injuries or illnesses and remain because the classes feed their souls. Children who struggle at school find a voice here. Adult caretakers seek solace and respite here. Many students have said that if it weren’t for the comfort they find at Kaleidoscope, they would be lost.”
Even those who may think they have little artistic ability find a place at KSOFA. “I’m not particularly artistic, but I missed being creative so I started taking classes at Kaleidoscope a few years ago,” says KSOFA Board Vice President Beth Kibby. “I enjoyed following along in my Step-by-Step class. One class led to many and before I knew it, I had made several close friends and found a sense of community I didn’t even know I had been missing. Kaleidoscope is my happy place, a Barrington jewel, and my second home.”
And while some people might retire at this stage of their lives, Funk talks about how Kaleidoscope continues to grow: “We’ll be offering a new life drawing class in the Spring 2 session, and hope to bring in a digital photography class as well.”
“I believe this community-based art school has survived through all these years because of its inclusivity for people at all skill levels to relieve anxiety, relax, and to use their creative skills on things other than electronics,” echoes KSOFA Board President Tracy Merfeld. “We have exciting things happening at Kaleidosope and look forward to a bright future.”
All of this is no small feat, as KSOFA is nonprofit, charges nominal fees for classes and workshops, and offers scholarships to those in need.
“Art pulls so much out of you that you never knew you had,” Funk sums up. “Art heals your soul.”
Kaleidoscope School of Fine Art is located at 316 W. Main Street in Barrington, 847-381-4840, kaleidoscopeschooloffineart.com.