Kelly Hansen has been a graphic designer for over 25 years, a career that she fell into accidentally after being given the well-meaning, but misinformed and stereotypical advice that you “can’t make a living as an artist.” Her compromise was to get a degree in advertising, hoping to be the “creative” in a big agency. After graduating, Kelly worked as a designer for the Pistons/Palace of Auburn Hills where she became familiar with design software, and eventually she landed at a local advertising agency where she was the creative director for 11 years.
Outside of her professional life, Kelly experimented with watercolor, collage, mixed-media, quilting, mosaic, and papier-mâché. Some of these experiments found their way into her graphic design work. A few were accepted into local art shows—at The Scarab Club in Detroit and the Okemos Public Library.
For a period of time, the important work of motherhood and making ends meet eclipsed most of Kelly’s other creative activity. While running a successful freelance business, Kelly discovered her next passion—designing museum exhibits. In 2014, she accepted a position at Michigan State University as a graphic designer for University Outreach and Engagement and as an exhibit designer for the MSU Museum. She most recently designed the award-winning exhibit “Finding Our Voice: Sister Survivors Speak,” a collaboration between the survivors of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal and the MSU Museum.
In 2019, Kelly earned a masters degree in Arts and Cultural Management from MSU and started painting again. She really enjoys color, texture, patterns and combining media. Last year, her work was featured in juried shows at the Ann Arbor Art Center, and the South Haven Center for the Arts. She recently applied to the Masters of Fine Arts program at MSU and is nervously hoping to be accepted. None of these things would be possible without the encouragement and support of Kelly’s incredible family and friends.
"It’s What’s on the Inside" is the result of my attempt to begin painting again after a long hiatus. My goal was to complete a painting a week, although some of the larger canvases took longer. All of these portraits are of people I have some sort of positive connection to, and I found it interesting to spend time looking closely at their faces while considering the stories and emotions that arose as I worked. I have always been fascinated with the relationship between a person’s outer appearance and their inner story. In some cases, the subject’s expression seems to convey one feeling while the truth is something else. I love how interesting and complex people are, and try to capture a little of that in my paintings. I think my work improved as this series progressed. Can you guess which paintings were the earliest, and which was the last?
Kelly's exhibition will be on display at the Arts Council for the month of February and can be viewed M-F between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. with an opening reception on Friday, Feb. 7, from 5-7 p.m. The reception is open to the public and light refreshments will be served.