Community Education Instructor Selected for Black Creativity Juried Exhibition in Chicago

February 8, 2012

When Kathleen Anderson teaches her “Creating with Polymer Clay” Community Education workshop at GCC this spring, she’ll do more than instruct students in the techniques of working with a material she compares to working with solid paint. She’ll encourage them to dream a dream and hold fast to their dreams. All of her life, Kathleen Anderson has been a “maker of things,” starting when she was four years old and learned to crochet until her current focus on creating with polymer clay. Kathleen doesn’t make just anything, she creates pieces that speak to African-American sensibilities and culture. For years, she dreamed of making museum-quality artwork.

Kathleen’s dream first came true in 2009 when the organizers of the Folk Life Festival sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution asked Kathleen to submit her artwork to the Festival. On December 15, 2011, Kathleen’s birthday, her dream came true again. That day, Kathleen received a message from the organizers of the 40th Annual Black Creativity Juried Art exhibition in Chicago saying two of her HeartBoxes had been selected for the exhibition.

What is a HeartBox and what is the Black Creativity exhibition?

HeartBoxes are polymer clay boxes crafted in the shape of a heart. Kathleen made her first HeartBox in 2008 as a memorial for her beloved Aunt Margaret. Kathleen invited family members to write final farewells to Aunt Margaret to be placed in the box. Since then, Kathleen has made HeartBoxes for many special occasions, including weddings and bridal showers where guests’ messages for the new couple are placed in a HeartBox. Kathleen makes some HeartBoxes on commission, some she makes because the “box tells her it has to be made.”

The Black Creativity Juried Art exhibition is sponsored by the Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago and is part of the Museum’s Black Creativity program, established to showcase achievements by African Americans in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and medicine. In its 40th year, the Juried Art exhibition is the longest running exhibition of African American art in the United States. For the 2012 exhibition theme of “Energy,” Kathleen created a HeartBox titled “Energized.” The jury also selected a HeartBox titled “Feathers Fly” for the exhibition.

Kathleen’s dream of making museum quality art was energized by a song that came to her while she meditated. As Kathleen said, “The lyrics of the song are ‘Dream a dream, Wonderful dream, Show the world you dare to dream, Plant your seeds then watch them grow, Into a wonderful dream.’ Sometime after that, I found a poem by Langston Hughes that included the words, ‘hold fast to dreams.’ My song and Langston Hughes’ words inspire me in my work as an artist. In teaching at GCC, I hope I can help my students hold fast to their dreams.”

For information about the “Creating with Polymer Clay” and other Community Education workshops, visit or call (413)775-1661.

For information about Kathleen Anderson’s art work, visit

By Mary McClintock, ’82