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Meet the Artist

Marissa Tawney Thaler encourages art for everyone

Marissa Tawney Thaler recently finished her first children's book, "Gertie Lives on Ginkgo Street." She has not set a release date for the book.
Courtesy Image

Marissa Tawney Thaler, this week’s Summer of Art artist, was a late bloomer, artistically speaking.

“I learned a lot about art in high school,” Tawney Thaler said. “But it wasn’t until college when I realized I was actually good at it.”

She started taking classes at Grand Rapids’ Kendall College of Art in Design, where she started to dig into the stories behind the art she loved.

“I used to come home and tell my family everything I was learning about the stories in art history,” Tawney Thaler said. “Through advice from my mom, I realized that I might be interested in art education.”

Tawney Thaler credits the faculty at Kendall College with recognizing and encouraging her talents.

“They saw potential in me,” she said. “They are the ones that taught me how to draw.”

Exposure to different styles of art allowed Tawney Thaler to find her voice as an artist.

“I strive for a line between fine art and illustration in my work,” Tawney Thaler said. “I use narrative and humor, and I try to not take myself too seriously.”

She hopes that her work goes beyond an initial impression.

“It’s not just a visual,” Tawney Thaler said. “I want people to think about the narrative, the story, the possible implications and remember that feeling.”

Tawney Thaler, 31, teaches art to elementary school students at Waverly Community Schools, as well as studio work and tutoring classes.

“Teaching has taught me many things, but mostly about myself,” she said. “I’ve learned the importance of making time for art, because when I don’t, when I’m just a teacher, I lose a big part of myself.”

Tawney Thaler is looking forward to a batch of new projects coming up in the next couple of months.

“I finished my first children’s book recently, and now I’m working on ArtPrize,” Tawny said.

Marissa Tawney Thaler hosts an artist demonstration at this year's East Lansing Art Festival.
Courtesy Photo

This will be her second year competing in the Grand Rapids art competition. This year, her work will be displayed at the City Water Building in the Cherry Street District.

“I’m a little out of my comfort zone in the piece I’m working on this year,” Tawney Thaler said. “I’m working on an installation piece and told myself to just go for it.”

While big time art competitions like ArtPrize may not be for everyone, Tawney Tahler encourages amateur artists and no-nartists to explore creative outlets.

“People need to understand that art and creativity is attainable, for everybody,” Tawney Thaler said.

But even those who will never practice art can still learn a lesson from it.

“My biggest piece of advice I can give anyone is to be intentional, artist or not,” Tawney Thaler said. “Be intentional about your progress — sit down, figure it out, be proactive and most important, push yourself — and you’ll succeed.”


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