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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Nature inspires artist's stained glass work

Friday, October 5, 2012

Katie Miller, 13, of Akron, (left) uses acrylic paint on a rice paper banner she's creating with the help of Connie Hankens, of Cherokee. Hankens is the Le Mars Arts Center's artist in residence for the coming year.
The Le Mars Arts Center has a new artist in residence, Connie Hankens of Cherokee.

Hankens, whose stained glass art was featured in the center's September exhibit, will serve as artist in residence for the next year.

Hankens said she has loved artistic expressions ever since she was a child.

"My mother made classical music readily available to me, my brother and our friends at a very young age -- we were perhaps 4 and 5 years old," she said. "We kids would use the music to add drama to whatever we were dreaming up, whether it was a dance, skit, or just plain enjoyable listening. We were always doing something inventive, but I particularly enjoyed making things,"

Her favorite crayon color was "brilliant rose."

She started in the stained glass art about 37 years ago, after receiving a call from a friend who had arranged for stained glass classes to meet in her basement, Hankens said.

There was room for one more student and Hankens snapped it up.

"After six weeks of casual instruction, I came to the conclusion that I was going to do my own thing with glass. Pattern work was just not cut out for me," Hankens said.

She started experimenting with sculptural designs and eventually she settled on playful interpretations just to please herself.

"Since then I've continued to work with glass in a variety of ways. Presently I am intrigued with applying stained glass embellishments to my paintings. I was warned that when painters become infatuated with glass work, they often desert their painting. Well, I am determined to keep both mediums alive, so I am trying to combine them both. As an experimental artist, I'll try anything," Hankens said.

Hankens finds inspiration for her art in nature.

Nature, she said, is the source of many "found" art materials such as contorted branches, willow wands, fossils, and all kinds of intriguing treasures.

"I love to walk in the woods, meander along stream beds and dig in the dirt. It's so invigorating to explore the great outdoors and to admire nature's astonishing beauty," she said.

Hankens was invited to apply for the artist in residence position at the Arts Center.

"After many years of retirement, I decided that I needed more 'people-ness' in my life, and since artists are my favorite group of people, I had everything to gain by simply responding to the challenge," Hankens said. "When I received the wonderful news that I had been granted this honor, I made up my mind that I was going to give my best efforts to make this year's residency extra special."

Her goal as artist in residence is to encourage people to participate in the many programs available.

"I am delighted with the wonderful organizational support that currently exists within this transformed Carnegie Library building," Hankens said. "Art classes and civic groups meet here to engage and contribute to the Le Mars community spirit. I want to contribute to that happy feeling of belonging in any way I can."

Hankens is already busy with Open Studio hours every Tuesday from 5-7 p.m.

Open Studio is available to everyone who loves art, and this includes all ages and both genders, according to Hankens. Open Studio offers local artists a place and time to work on their art, observe Hankens at work and ask questions.

Open Studio follows a pre-teen after school class, which she teaches.

Hankens brings different kinds of her own projects to work on during open studio, whether it is glass, painting, fiber or just plain drawing.

That allows visitors to see her at work, while they may be working on their own project.

"That old expression, 'back to the drawing board' is so vital, and since the Art Center has a lending library, I find that this time allows me to research new ideas," Hankens said. "It's amazing how two hours of uninterrupted focus can help a person accomplish a lot of work."

Hankens has sold her works in galleries and at art fairs, and has owned her own gallery/creative consignment shop.

She has also been a reporter and photographer for Cherokee newspapers and the Sioux City Journal.

In retirement, she works part-time as a secretary for Western Iowa Tech Community College on the Cherokee campus.

Hankens calls herself a "morning person," and says her days begin early as she tries to catch up with household tasks and also organize her thoughts.

"This quiet time keeps me sane and makes me presentable, so that I can really enjoy my home, family life, being with my friends, and meeting new people," Hankens said.

In addition to Open Studios at the Arts Center, Hankens will also be available throughout the year as an invited demonstrator at the Arts Center activities.

Her Touch of Glass Sculptures can be found at the Arts Center and the Woodland Sanctuary Studios in Cherokee.

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