Living an Artistic Life

By Joni Starr, Claudia Burns

Editor’s Note: As arts educators we often wonder about the long term impact of our teaching. When they have left us, do our students grow into or out of their artistry and creativity? MAEIA is pleased to partner and work with individuals who fully embrace their creativity and who actively engage in artistic living. Watch for profiles of these interesting people in the upcoming months in our new blog series: Living an Artistic Life.


For our second profile we learn more about Claudia Burns. Claudia is a former art teacher turned painter and mosaic artist. The pandemic lockdown provided an opportunity for her to hone her craft and seriously pursue painting in oils. She currently shows at the Chris Nordin Studios Gallery in Ann Arbor.

 How would you define your current artistry?

I used to be a K-12 art educator. I continue to create on many different levels, in diverse media. I’ve designed and coordinated a group collaboration on a large mosaic work and made sculptural birthday cakes for my five grandchildren and so many projects in between. Since 2020, I have been painting in oils and exhibiting my work locally. I also enjoy plein air painting as it combines my love of outdoors with painting and it hones my awareness of my surroundings.

What does it mean to you to live an artistic life?

Artistry touches every aspect of my life and home, from keeping fresh flowers in a handcrafted vase to managing perennials in the garden to cooking creative meals for family gatherings. My painting style is realistic, scenes familiar to anyone living in Michigan—up North and local scenes from Ann Arbor and nearby. Now, I have time for contemplation. My kids are grown, my spouse passed. I live alone. I can take plenty of time to ponder process and meaning both in my life and in my art, to think about what matters most and why.


Do you feel your artistry reaches out to other people?

What impact can a painting of an old canoe next to a boat shed or a gas station on a rainy night have on a viewer? How can created things express beauty in a way that touches the viewer’s soul? Everyday objects and spaces elevated in a painting to a place of beauty demand an act of attention. It awakens contemplation. It awakens the intellect, memories and feelings associated with a past experience. Contemplating beauty awakens a sense that it is good to be a human person. “When we make, we invite the abundance of God’s world into the reality of scarcity all about us.” Mako Fujimura


What role did arts education play in your life?

In elementary school, my fifth grade teacher asked me to paint a Christmas scene on our classroom door. Even though at that time there was no specific art class at school, she recognized and encouraged my interest. Growing up in Detroit I would go on family visits to the Detroit Institute of Arts, eventually attending an ongoing class on Saturdays in my middle school years.


What is your connection to MAEIA?

As I think about my work and the why, I think about my role as a MAEIA assessment writer. That experience taught me to dig deeply into my students’ whys and engage them in reflection. Encouraging students and their teachers to set goals and reflect on process and product significantly enhanced my experience as an art educator.

Living an artistic life can mean many things to many people and as Claudia has pointed out it can bring a beauty that makes everyday objects important and that can awaken contemplation. Are you living an artistic life?


To really appreciate and to purchase Claudia’s work, visit her website at

Read our first Living an Artistic Life profile here: Chad Swan-Badgero

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