Artist, former educator helps Columbia Fall into Art

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 | 4:17 p.m. CDT; updated 7:30 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Farah Nieuwenhuizen, a former art teacher at Hickman High School, is now one of four coordinators of the Fall into Art festival, which is set for Saturday and Sunday at the Parkade Center.

COLUMBIA — The walls of Farah Nieuwenhuizen's house are a tribute to her work as an artist.

Watercolors of summer vacations in France hang in her living room with batiks she has made from cloth, wax and dye.

If you go

What: Fall into Art, free community art exhibit open to the public

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, with a reception until 7 p.m.; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday

Where: Parkade Center, 601 Business Loop 70 W.

For more information about the event, go to the Fall into Art website.

They are all displayed among family photos taken of her husband and their four children.

In the basement is a collection of a different kind. There, among boxes of lesson plans from Nieuwenhuizen's teaching career, are letters students sent during her 20 years as an art teacher at Hickman High School.

"I don't want to throw them away. I just can't," she said. "It's so nice to see that you are appreciated and people like what you taught."

A love for both art and education led Nieuwenhuizen to help coordinate the Fall into Art community arts festival, taking place Saturday and Sunday for the third year.

The event, which is free and open to the public, is held in the Parkade Center. It will feature 27 artist booths, live music and a reception Saturday evening with wine and hors d'oeuvres.

Artists will display work including wood sculptures, ceramics, jewelry, glass art and photography. Guitar and piano performances by MU Music Department students, as well as classical guitarist Joel Anderson, will provide a backdrop to the exhibit.

"It takes a lot of work and time to set up an art exhibition like the Fall into Art festival," Nieuwenhuizen said. "When you do an art show, you have to go all the way."

Fall into Art began after another city-sponsored art festival, the Festival of the Arts, was discontinued several years ago.

"I was looking for an opportunity to find a place where artists could exhibit their work," Nieuwenhuizen said. "When you're an artist, it's in your blood. You can't separate it and sit back and say you're not doing it anymore."

She is one of four members of the planning committee this year, which has been working on the festival since January.

Peggy King joined the planning committee for the second year. She was introduced to Fall into Art as an exhibiting artist, then became part of the organization.

"We like getting together every year to do this," King said. "It's a fun show."

The festival has expanded this time with the addition of two emerging artists booths to encourage students from local schools to become more active in the art community.

One booth will feature work of students from Hickman High School and Columbia Independent School. Another will have art by Moberly Area Community College students.

King said the addition of these booths was organized by Nieuwenhuizen, who has wanted to get local schools involved with the festival for years.

Hickman High School art teacher Julia Grant said she was approached at the beginning of the school year to send student work to the festival. 

"It gives them confidence and lets them see how artists work," Grant said about her students. "Getting that authentic experience of showing and selling their work is pretty unique."

Melynda Lotven has been working on the Fall into Art planning committee with Nieuwenhuizen since the festival's inception and has seen it develop into a sustaining community event.

"We've done a  lot of building the last three years," Lotven said. "I really do think this is going to be our best year."

Nieuwenhuizen has long been an advocate of promoting arts in schools and the community. Her love for art began early in grade school with private oil painting lessons in Iran.

In 1955, she and her family moved to Brazil, where she would later attend the Escola de Belas Artes (School of Fine Arts) in Rio de Janeiro.

An interest in architecture took Nieuwenhuizen to Washington University in St. Louis, but she ended up studying fashion design for one year before leaving the university.

In 1969, she moved to Columbia when her husband, Maarten Nieuwenhuizen, was offered a job with MU.

Nieuwenhuizen earned a bachelor's degree in art education then took a position at Hickman High School, where she taught art for two decades.

"When the students came into the art class for the first time, some of them said, 'I can't draw a straight line,'" Nieuwenhuizen said. "And I would say, 'Anybody can get a ruler and draw a straight line. But you're going to learn how to draw.' "

By the end of every spring semester, she discovered the key to staying in the classroom year after year.

"It was rewarding to see how they blossomed and how they learned about visual art," she said about the students. "It was so nice to see them accomplish a work of art and be proud of it."

Nieuwenhuizen keeps this in mind as she coordinates the Fall into Art festival.

"If I can help other artists, I think I would be very happy with that," she said. "Everyone has a talent. You just have to nurture it."

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