Deeply Rooted

Deeply Rooted

Kaminskys’ artistic family tree branches out


“Family dynamics can be complicated.”

So begins a press release from Fenix Fayetteville about an unusual — one might even say unique — exhibit on show in the month of August. It involves six artists — husband and wife, two sons, one daughter-in-law and one chosen member of the clan who grew up in the former Yugoslavia and came to Fayetteville to attend high school.

Add to that that the family showing its work started with Hank and Jo Ann Kaminsky, arguably one of the most influential couples in the Northwest Arkansas art world, and unique probably isn’t an overstatement.

The Kaminskys have been active in the arts in Fayetteville since they moved to town with their two boys from Eureka Springs in the 1980s. As a family, they’ve made art, taught art and advocated for the arts, creating The Art Experience in 1992 as a place where they could teach others the “benefits of engaging with art on multiple levels.” Over the years, Jo Ann has become known for her art therapy practice and Hank for his public art, but the art in this show — the third Kaminsky family show — “reflects the unique personalities and interests” of all six artists.

In this Free Weekly Q&A, five of the six artists consider their roots and their personal growth. (Younger son Daniel was not available for the interview.)

Q. What first inspired your love of art?

Jo Ann: My grandparents and parents had a sign company, so I grew up with art materials, and to keep me occupied they gave me an orange juice can of paint and a brush and board to paint on. … My grandmother taught me how to knit, crochet, embroidery.

Hank: I think it was a gradual process that had to do with learning to see nature as the source of the truths I looked for as a kid.

Jesse Kaminsky (elder son): My parents; they first enabled me to picture myself as an artist and gave me the opportunity to try it out.

Isabella Koen (Jesse’s wife, currently living in Boston): I grew up in a family of musicians; my parents always fostered my creativity and encouraged me to pursue artistic endeavours. I also grew up playing outside a lot, which I think goes hand in hand with art practices to a degree — it’s when you first start to place yourself in the world and relate to your surroundings.

Damir Porobic (exchange student and chosen family member, who currently lives in Portland, Maine, teaching printmaking at a college there): Childhood and creative and imaginative re/interpretations of favorite stories, etc.


Q. What was your first medium? And what medium do you work in now?

Jo Ann: I have always drawn but have a love of many media. I have painted for the longest time but made my living as a potter for several years. Since 1998 I have been making puppets, which includes many media and disciplines.

Hank: As a teenager, I was always looking for a means of expression, and I experimented with many. When one of my friends gave me some clay, I made something awkward but very satisfying. After all this time and work in many methods of molding and casting sculpture, I have begun working in clay again.

Jesse: My first memory of making art was with clay. … I still work in clay, but I don’t have a specific medium. I change styles and approaches when it seems appropriate or I start to get bored.

Isabella: My first medium is sound. I’ve always worked with sound in one capacity or another, either formally with playing instruments or composing to collecting field recordings, creating soundscapes and designing “sound makers” out of box fans or anything lying around.

Damir: Drawing/painting and plasteline clay. Now I work in technology integrated mixed media.


Q. What role/purpose does art play in your world — and in THE world?

Jo Ann: I am an art therapist and counselor, so I use artmaking in my therapeutic practice, helping others to find the strengths and develop life skills through art making. For me, artmaking is vital to my well being. If I am not regularly making art I can lose my center and joy of life.

Hank: Art is the expression of our symbolic life. A culture defines itself through its art.

Jesse: The purpose of art is different for everyone, and for some people it plays no purpose at all. … For me, it’s an essential way that I interact with the world.

Isabella: I think for me it keeps me sane; the ability to hold agency over something in my life is empowering. … It keeps me in touch with myself. Zooming out, I think art itself is a valuable teaching tool.

Damir: In my world, it has served key role for spurring growth and development of my whole self, and I’d hope it serves similar role in others.


Q. What lesson/message/inspiration do you hope comes with seeing your show?

Jo Ann: … I hope to give the viewer an experience that becomes their own, one that makes them curious and have more questions than answers. I hope they find joy.

Hank: I hope most of all that someone looking at my work will be interested enough to keep looking. I want a conversation.

Jesse: I hope people are able to find something to enjoy in the art that I’ve made, and if it inspires them to make something then that’s great.

Isabella: I’m just excited to share work and be with family and friends.

Damir: Hard to pinpoint one but hopefully showing how community and art or collective creativity is a family type bond in us all.


Q. What do you want to do as an artist that you haven’t done yet?

Jo Ann: I want to get back to painting and process some issues that trouble me in the world, but those pieces are not ready to appear yet.

Hank: Make the next piece.

Jesse: The next piece is always the best because it hasn’t been made yet.

Isabella: Hmm, I really would love to do Foley sound work for a film or live performance. Or maybe work on one piece for an extended amount of time to see what happens.

Damir: Next I am interested in developing large scale inkjet compatible enhanced handmade papers made from my garden plants.



Kaminsky Family Show

WHEN — 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday

WHERE — Fenix Fayetteville, 16 W. Center St.

COST — Free


BONUS — An opening reception is set for 5-8 p.m. Aug. 1 during First Thursday on the Fayetteville square.

Categories: Galleries