In addition to being our new Reader-in-Residence, Karen Scarlett is an interdisciplinary artist. She works in pencil, water colour, acrylic, mixed media, bas-relief and sculpture. Karen often works with barn wood found at 100 year old homesteads where the elements have created a finish to the wood that comes only through the passage of time. We caught up with Karen as she has settled in at the Children’s Reading Place and we asked her a few questions to get to know her better.
Welcome Karen! We are so excited to formally have you as a part of our team. Could you please tell us how and why you made the decision to become our Reader/Artist-in-Residence at The Children’s Reading Place?
It was a pretty easy decision to decide to live at the Children’s Reading Place. I have loved the idea of the “book house” since its inception and I adore the magic that has been created in the house. I like change and thought it would be fun to live in a space with meaningful public engagement. I am always in wonder about how people connect and I thought this move would add to my artistic lifestyle.
I have been living in the house for almost a month now and I have fallen in love with the space. Of course, activity-wise, it is far different than I originally expected with the changes that we’ve all had to make due to Covid.
This summer I am hoping to create some public read-in-the-park events, held by the river, to engage Calgary Reads fans. I am thrilled to be part of the Calgary Reads team and to be living in such a wonderful space and community.
Can you tell us a little bit about your art?
I grew up in a very artistic home and so I have created art since I was little. My grandparents were super creative too and they had a big impact on me. I am a multi-discipline artist which, to me, means I make and create in whatever medium inspires me. I mostly work in water colour, acrylic and mixed media. I also produce sculpture, my latest medium is chicken wire. I also create in fiber, concrete, jewelry and wood – often making my own barn wood frames for my artwork.
My work is in personal and corporate collections around the world, I have been featured at the Calgary Stampede and my work adorns 152 surfaces in the Royal Palm Hotel and Resort on Miami Beach, Florida. Currently, you can find many of my pieces at A Dose of Happiness in Bankers Hall on the third floor or online on my website store. My Instagram page
page usually shows works in process and what I am up to on a weekly basis.
Besides becoming the new Reader/Artist-in-Residence at The Children’s Reading Place, are there any new or upcoming projects on which you’re working?
I have loads of fun projects on the go. This week I will be creating a reading tent in the park behind the Children’s Reading Place. I will be using solar activated dye which is pretty neat to see. I will be posting a video of how that works on Instagram.
I will be painting a pair of ceramic boots to help with fundraising for the Calgary Food Bank. The books will be auctioned online. Check out the link to ‘Empty Boots’ campaign
to see some of the work being done.
I am involved with the sale of artwork through Calgary Allied Art Foundation where they are selling 5″x7″ sized masterpieces to help raise funds for Calgary artists. Check out the link to the artwork here: Petits Masterpieces
and see the small but beautiful pieces.
I have a few private commissions to create, including painting a metal cow!
I have a number of pieces displayed at A Dose of Happiness up on the 3rd floor of Bankers Hall. Please drop in if you would like to see any of my work up close and personal.
I am also creating an online water colour paint class. Other shows and events I was going to be involved with have been postponed.
Why does a literate community matter to you?
I believe there are many reasons to want a more literate community. Here are my top three:
1. Reading makes you more creative.
My Mom and Dad were both avid readers. We had many books growing up and we were read to daily as little kids. I remember what it felt like to sit on a mushroom with the Cheshire Cat. I remember flying with Amelia Earhart. Do you know what Green Eggs and Ham taste like? I do! AND, I flew on Aladdin’s magic carpet! As an adult I can readily pull all kinds of visuals from my memory bank and because I have always used my creative muscles, being creative is as natural as breathing for me and it all began with reading books.
2. Reading makes people happier.
One of my plans while living at the Children’s Reading Place is to read more and watch fewer movies. This has already started to help with my happiness levels. I am sure most people are aware of how too much screen time for children can have negative impacts, well, too much screen time is not so great for adults either. Reading affects our brain waves and just by changing some habits around chill time, I am changing my happiness levels right now. Wouldn’t it be great to affect happiness levels for our community by engaging people in more reading?
3. Reading increases your knowledge.
It does not matter if the topic is history, culture, science, politics, fashion, health, wellness, sports. The more you read , the more you understand people and the places they are from. Reading helps connect us and might help us understand why so many things divide us and deepening our understanding can only help solve problems our society faces. Reading helps us connect and build community,
What do you believe would most important to promoting the cause of ensuring a literate Calgary society?
When I first moved into The Children’s Reading Place, my 18-year-old niece helped me unload some things and she was able to see the house. She commented: “If I had come here when I was a kid, I would have totally fallen in love with reading!” I told her if she came to spend some time at the Children’s Reading Place, maybe she would fall in love with reading as an adult.
How do we get people to fall in love with reading? It may be as simple as having a special place to read — in the places we live, work and even where we socialize. I love helping Calgary Reads create special reading places so full of magic that all age levels connect and feel safe there. Places where anyone is able to find a book and read, and remember (or experience for the first time) how awesome that feels.
We hope you’ll soon get to meet Karen while she is residing at the Children’s Reading Place.