Artist Christy Alden points to her student’s art.
Three walls of art greeted me as I walked through the front door of artist Christy Alden’s house. A colorful assortment of birds, dragons, trees, bears, wolves, stars, flowers, fish, and buildings filled my eyes.
I wondered, as I look around, enchanted, why we all don’t cover our living room walls with art. But this particular assortment isn’t Alden’s art or any art you would see in a gallery or museum – at least not yet. It’s the art of her students.
Many of these pieces, however, don’t look as if children produced them. As an artist myself, I would be proud to call some my own. This is art created by a group of lucky Fort Collins students who receive weekend instruction from this award-winning artist.
Alden’s work has won both regional and national awards, and she has exhibited in Colorado galleries. You want to touch her pastel paintings of roses and apple blossoms just to ensure they’re not magically real. They resonate with a mysterious elegance, and you can’t stop staring at them. Her portraits are discerning. The personality of her subjects come across with a keen sensitivity.
Yet it’s not only creating art that inspires her, but teaching it as well.
She opens her doors on Saturday and Sunday mornings for two art classes each day. She enrolls 6 to 7 students in each class, ages ranging from 6 to 16.
And in the autumn each year, for the past 11 years, she staples and nails her students’ artworks to her walls, and opens her home for an art show. The students come with their parents and potluck dishes, and share their creations. Alden also awards each student with a ribbon.
They work with diverse media to create their colorful creations. There are works in acrylic, colored pencil, watercolor, watercolor pencils, pastels, oil pastels, scratch art, mixed media, word burning, and quilling.
But, Alden, says she ensures that it’s art she is teaching and not crafts.
“I have always loved art,” she told me, sitting on her couch with her students’ work surrounding her. But she began teaching only about 11 years ago when a family with a highly gifted child asked Alden to teach their daughter art. She met the family through her work as an occupational therapist.
In fact, it’s working as an OT that gave Alden the idea to teach her favorite subject. She uses a method from OT called scaffolding, which employs breaking down learning through specific, sequential steps.
Her greatest satisfaction comes when a young artist says, “I can’t believe I painted this.”
And she loves the diversity of her classes. Living in this college town that brings in professors and students from all over the world, she has students from Korea, India, and Russia as well as the United States.
“We become a family,” she said, noting that she has taught some of these students for over 9 years.
She started out with a curriculum and lesson plans, but that disappeared early in her teaching. Each child gets drawn to certain media or types of art and she lets the child decide what they want to learn and master. While that’s challenging for her as a teacher, it’s what is best for the students, Alden said.
Before I left, she showed me a student’s “before and after” portfolio. It contained art the young girl did before she started with Alden and drawings and paintings from her weekend classes. The change was remarkable. And, Alden said smiling, that also gives her an immeasurable sense of satisfaction.
For more information on Christy Alden and her art, see
A sample of Christy Alden’s award-winning art.