Chelsea artist and teacher Blue Horn helps students and adults find beauty in the everyday.
While art has always been a part of her life, it was the thought of tackling math problems for several potential majors in college that led Blue Horn to find her niche as an artist.
“From the time I was a kid I have always loved to draw,” Horn, 47, said. “Back in the day there were no computers so we relied on ‘how to draw’ books or you sat in your room and thought up things to draw. I didn’t have any art classes growing up, except one in middle school that I loved. Once I hit college, I was your average kid that did not know what in the world I wanted to do.”
Horn, who currently lives in Chelsea, attended the University of Alabama, and took a test to determine what career path she should consider.
“They told me I fell into the category of entrepreneur, and I did not even really know what that entailed, so I thought I wanted to be like Jane Pauley and decided to pursue broadcasting,” Horn said. “My first class had 100 plus people, I walked in and thought, ‘holy mackerel,’ this is not for me, plus I stunk at math and found out math was involved, so I changed to advertising, which I really liked, but the classes were also huge and just not for me. I changed to graphic design, but once again math got involved, I tried education, but found it to be boring, and then I took an art education class, and that changed my whole life.”
Smaller class size, the ability to originate ideas and experiences, and learning ways to create art from different forms and mediums helped propel Horn to solidify a path she has been involved in for more than 20 years.
“Art just made sense, and after going through so many different options and ideas, it finally clicked with me,” Horn said. “I was able to explore, and really hit my stride.”
After graduating from the University of Alabama during a December term, Horn got a job working in Columbus, Ga. at three elementary schools where she did not have her own classroom, and traveled with her art supplies on a cart to teach the kids.
“It wasn’t too long after I started working in Georgia that I got a call from Hoover schools saying they had an opening,” Horn said. “Trace Crossings had only been open for about a year, and I told them I would be thrilled to work for them.”
Horn has since been employed with Hoover City Schools for 23 years, including 11 years at Trace Crossings Elementary School, three years at Shades Mountain elementary schools, and then at Greystone Elementary School, where she has taught for almost a decade.
“I did not have plans to become an educator,” Horn said. “I have always had an interest in art, so once I started taking art classes and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, I figured I should probably start doing my own artwork,” Horn said. “I was always drawing on my own, but I never wanted to sell it, and then a couple of peers and colleagues suggested I give it a shot.”
Horn said she started researching what types of art consumers might be interested in purchasing, and worked to create original pieces for people to enjoy.
Drawing inspiration from the pop art movement, including bright colors, Horn looked to one of her favorite artists, Jasper Johns.
“I was staring at his art one day and thought to myself that I couldn’t be the only person who liked pop art,” Horn said. “I got the idea to spell out words, and add pictures and things to the words that are meaningful to people.”
Horn’s art debuted on the Birmingham art scene with appearances in Lucy’s Coffee Shop in downtown Birmingham, as well as Naked Art Gallery in Forest Park, where she sold pieces for about eight years.
“My name is easy to remember, so a lot of people got to where they knew somebody else that had one of my paintings, and that is how word of mouth spread,” Horn said. “As I got older, and kept teaching, I started getting away from my art a little bit. I still sell it, but I really enjoy getting to know the people I am creating it for, and finding out the things they like and dislike, because chances are these people are going to have this piece of art until they die.”
Horn enjoys quirky, bright, unique pieces of art, often that have a sense of humor attached with the piece.
“For me, art isn’t about the money, it is all about the personal meaning,” Horn said. “I chose to leave the gallery scene because I wanted to meet with the people who were buying my artwork. I like doing the mass produced type of stuff, but I also love getting to meet people and finding out more about who they are, and what they enjoy.”
PEOPLE OF GREYSTONE
It was Horn’s love of art and people that compelled her to debut a new project at Greystone Elementary in 2016, featuring the stories behind the faces that walk the halls of the school she teaches at each day.
After falling in love with the photography project Humans of New York, Horn proposed the idea to school faculty, and debuted a similar project called “People of Greystone.”
The goal is to feature every member of the student body including teachers, parents, those that make an impact on the school, and anyone Horn finds interesting to include in the project.
Horn, two parent volunteers and a peer helper from Spain Park High School, select a few individuals each week to photograph and briefly interview.
One of the parent volunteers transcribes the interviews to post on the website Horn created, PeopleofGreystone.com, and music teacher Sara Womack posts the stories to the People of Greystone Facebook page.
While the interviews vary with each individual, Horn said the common goal is to get to know the people she is interviewing.
“Kids love to be highlighted, and usually the interviews with kids can be completely random,” Horn said during an interview for the project in December. “A lot of times the questions will start our with something simple like ‘so, what is on your mind?’ Or, ‘tell me something I don’t know about you.’ The interviews with kids typically hop and jump all over the place. I roll with it, and the interviews with the kids are pretty hilarious.”
In October 2016, the project expanded into an art installation at the school where the pictures and interviews of the individuals are constantly changing.
“There is always someone new to learn about,” Horn said.
While Horn said she is not sure how long the website will last, she is enjoying seeing the positive reaction from the community.
One thing is clear about Horn’s project, as well as her teaching style with her students, and her personal art: having fun.
“If there is one thing I have learned throughout my life is that you have to have fun with things,” Horn said. “If you can’t have fun or enjoy what you are doing, is there really any point to it all?”
To contact Horn about her art, or to purchase some of her artwork, visit Facebook.com/mbluehorn.