Maureen Claffy’s story about how she arrived where she is today is as rich as the art she creates. Has she always been an artist? Of course. In fact, she realized she was an artist more than three decades ago while studying in France. But it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that she started to pursue art as a professional outlet to be shared with others.
“It was very intermittent until about 2009 when I had a very sick child and painting was the only thing that calmed me down and reduced anxiety,” she recalls. And now she’s sharing the healing powers of art as a teacher and founder at the Maureen Claffy Art Academy.
You might know Claffy as the local artist and painter behind “The Love Intention,” which are commissioned works of art created for two individuals to commemorate their relationship—often for couples getting married, but sometimes for family members in different generations to tell the story of what makes their family love special.
Or you might know her as the artist behind the nonpartisan “Loves Lives USA” initiative that started with a group of women in Hinsdale who wanted to share the message of love and respect in their community—an initiative that grew into a nationwide campaign that featured Claffy’s art on 22 digital boards across the country, including in cities like Chicago, Denver, and Casper, Wyoming.
But the opening of the art academy is one of Claffy’s proudest moments—up there with raising her four children.
“I think art is important for kids to decompress,” says the artist, who works in a variety of media including acrylic, ink, pencil, and mixed media. “It’s a way of reaching them, and teaching them a lifelong skill to help them develop a healthy coping mechanism they can use their entire lives.”
That’s a key part of the mission of the academy, which is to provide a joyful and safe space where students can create amazing art, all the while feeling safe, valued, seen, and celebrated.
The Academy combines the love of art with art education. For example, this semester at the Art Academy is all about The French Impressionists, followed by American painters. The final semester is all about the art of the self-portrait and the history of the self-portrait, which Claffy thinks is especially relevant now during the era of the selfie.
“I don’t have any rules except respect yourself, others, and the materials. In art, there are no mistakes. Kids need a place where they can experiment,” she says.
Claffy has deep roots in Hinsdale, and raised her children here. She used to attend art classes or walk by galleries in Hinsdale, never thinking she’d have art on display there. But now she does. Art has brought her so much—she’s a commissioned artist who has done everything from national arts initiatives to creating Sending You Love Notes packages of note cards.
And now she’s teaching others.
“Art anchors my life,” she says. “As an artist, I paint to speak to the world about a loving God. I paint about love, and I want to help teach a whole generation of children to love and think and express it.”
To learn more about Maureen Claffy and her art academy, visit maureenclaffy.com, maureenclaffyartacademy.com, or loveliveusa.org.