AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — For almost 20 years, the Amarillo Art Institute has inspired, educated, and enriched lives through art on the High Plains. This is done in a variety of ways to spread the mission of getting the arts to as many people as possible.

The Amarillo Art Institute is a community art school that provides classes, workshops, and camps for beginners to experts.

“I think one of the things AAI tries to do is help artists along every step of the way. So we have classes for beginners who may have never picked up a paintbrush before and then we walk them through sort of their journey, so as they start to improve and get better and some of the pieces that our artists create are just incredible, I can’t believe we have people living here in the city that produces this kind of work. But the whole point of where we’re going to is also to provide memberships for those artists, the ones that grow out of class, they still have a place to come and work, and then if they want to take the next step, studios are available they can work out of. We also have a community gallery they can show their work in and kind of test the waters in and see if they are an artist that can sell and kind of get more exposure in the community,” said Executive Director at the Amarillo Art Institute Rachel Flores.

The non-profit is not connected to a college or school district and Flores said this allows them to teach a wider array of art mediums.

“We have a diverse set of media that we teach. We are one of the few places in the region that actually teaches weaving, so we have about 15 looms and teach people rugs, scarves, and that kind of thing. We also teach oil, watercolor, acrylics, pastels, I’m going to try to get them all in, drawing, ceramics, and then encaustic painting, which is painting with beeswax and we just recently added glassblowing and glass fusing,” said Flores.

Flores said that they have also had printmaking and jewelry-making in the past and said when people have an idea, they try to make it happen.

“If we have the instructor and if we have the interest in the community, we want to bring what the community wants to learn to the school,” said Flores.

Flores said those that teach classes at AAI come from all backgrounds.

“We really look to the experts in their field, so we have people that can teach multiple different media and then we have some that have been doing the same thing for 30 years and are really good at it and can teach it. We do borrow a little bit, we have some instructors that come from Amarillo College and WT that kind of teach on the side, it’s a great sort of extra, to make a little bit more of a difference in our community, so we have instructors from all over, but the majority of them are considered experts in their field,” said Flores.

Flores added that the Yellow City is a hub for fine arts.

“I think we are really fortunate to have the city that we have. There are not many of our size that also have their own opera, its own symphony, and theater. The amount of culture and art that we get on a daily basis it’s amazing we have it in Amarillo. For us, to be a community art school, we’re constantly being able to work with some really talented instructors who are well-known artists in the community… I think that just adds a whole another element to the art community supporting each other and uplifting each other, said Flores.

Kellee Mitchell, an artist who has a class at the Amarillo Art Institute and showcases her artwork at the newly renovated Arts in the Sunset said art can be more than just putting brush to canvas.

“You can mix any color from red, yellow, or blue and add a little bit of white and get any color in the color wheel and get any color you see in the world out of those three colors. It’s something that is fun, educational, creative, inspiring, it’s actually healthy,” said Mitchell.

Being a non-profit allows AAI to also pull funding from grants and things like that to do more for the community.

“The whole purpose is to serve the whole community and so not only do we have classes and camps that start as little as five or six years old all the way up to 90 years old students, but we also provide public events. So shows, exhibitions, artwalks that are really for everybody and everyone,” said Mitchell.

One of those exhibitions that the Amarillo Art Institute will be bringing to the Arts in the Sunset soon will be Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition this summer.

“To this day, I don’t know how we lucked out so much in getting it here, but for us to have something so iconic, so historic, be in our new space and sort of kick off what we hope to be years and years of these traveling exhibitions is just really exciting for everyone involved,” said Flores.

Flores added that the renovations at Art in the Sunset help expose more people in the community to art.

“More people in our doors, means more people are being exposed to art. But one of the things that people don’t realize is why people continue to pursue art when they are good at drawing at a young age, or painting, is it’s very intimidating. That is a very intimidating thing to just walk into a school and say, ‘I want to learn to get better’ and so I think that breaks down some of the barriers when we have some more hours that visitors can just come in and just enjoy the space and get used to the space, I think it breaks down some of that intimidation and makes the arts feel more accessible for people,” said Flores.

Flores said the Amarillo Art Institute is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 A.M. until 6 P.M.
Memberships at the Amarillo Art Institute range from $50 a person to $200 a person for the entire year, depending on age and the people involved. Memberships allow access to open studios and use of the facility.

But Flores said the school is open to visitors and you don’t have to be a member or attend a class to enjoy the school.