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In the Spotlight

Three local artists pull back the curtain to reveal why they are so passionate

What type of art do you create?  In 2018, after 30 years in commercial art, illustrating and designing (and a career shift into high-pressure product development), Kathleen Rietz began painting abstract floral art on canvas and has expanded into creating and selling one-of-a-kind luxury floral scarves. What began as a way to decompress from a stressful career and reconnect with herself quickly became much more than that.

Do flowers have special meaning?  For Kathleen, flowers are relatable, represent universal connection, and evoke memories and feelings.  They add life to special occasions. The vibrant colors can bring peace, joy and comfort in times of need or despair.  Something that Kathleen understood personally when her sister became terminally ill.  She turned toward painting as a distraction, a way to express her pain and a solace that could resonate with her sister and others.  In 2019, she quit her high-stress job and began her full-time career in art.

How are you and your art evolving?  During COVID, Kathleen designed online art courses and has since enhanced and expanded them to target a variety of blossoming artists.  She continues to inspire and connect to herself and others…and adds beauty along the way.

What led you to performance dance? Rebecca McCarthy doesn’t remember life before dance.  From the age of three, she has been dancing and knew for almost as long that her dream was to teach others.  That dream became a reality at 17 when she first began giving lessons. She continued dancing and performing through college, as well as teaching, including a semester abroad in London, her junior year.

What drives you to continue teaching today?  Rebecca finds joy in watching the students grow, seemingly, before her eyes.  She has the unique experience of teaching students year after year, much different than a school teacher who has their classes turnover every year.  What brings tears of pride and gratitude to her eyes is when at a year-end recital, a shy, timid child who is blossoming into a confident dancer looks side stage where Rebecca is standing to cheer her on and catches her eye as if to say “Thank you!” and “Look what I can do now!”.  For Rebecca, building confidence and self-esteem is her underlying driving force.  As she explains, "If I can make a positive impact on even one student, I would consider Rebecca McCarthy School of Dance successful!”

What lies ahead?   Currently, dancers known as The Irish Frosty Group are preparing to perform in their 10th appearance in the Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade.  A must see for thousands of loyal (and new) fans!

Did you always know you wanted to perform? In a family of 11 kids, with parents who owned a church, everyone had to find their way to stand out.  Karen’s mom, recognized early on that her daughter had a voice that others needed to hear.  The church provided the outlet for Karen to share her talents.  And so the journey began.  The self-titled “Blue Collar Musician” with a Blues and Americana influence once baked and sold cookies to make ends meet, but now earns a living performing live and writing her own music.

What has singing meant to you? At 17, after losing her best friend by murder, Karen turned deeper into music as a way to cope with that loss and some difficult relationships.  Now, what gets her emotional is standing on stage and witnessing a dad dancing and singing with his daughter, eyes locked on each other, totally enrapt in the moment.  She finds peace knowing she can be a part of the joy and bonding that comes from people connected through music.

"If I can make a positive impact on even one student, I would consider Rebecca McCarthy School of Dance successful!"

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