When Keely Rademacher graduated from NC State’s College of Design in 2003, she put most of her energy into teaching art to elementary school children in Raleigh. She had studied fiber arts and photography at NC State, but she loved seeing the kids’ faces light up as she introduced them to the creative, fun world of art.
“I never knew I wanted to be a practicing artist,” she says.
But that’s what she is now. And not just a practicing artist, but an award-winning practicing artist. Three weeks ago, Rademacher won an award naming her the top visual artist in Portland, Ore.
After her time in Raleigh, Rademacher moved to San Diego, Calif., with her husband, Jesse Rademacher ’04, who wanted to find work as a footwear designer. She continued to teach, but says her new life in California was a hard transition. It was there that she got more into painting, and her own art became “that safe and happy place to me.”
After a subsequent move to Portland, Rademacher discovered the city’s flourishing arts community. She says one of the city’s communities will have an art opening every week. “There are so many different avenues for art here,” she says. “It’s more woven into the community. There’s murals and all kinds of public art.”
With that influence around her, Rademacher turned to art full-time in April 2011, focusing on oil paintings. And there’s been a quick turnaround on her effort. In November, RAW: Natural Born Artists, a grass-roots organization dedicated to showcasing local artists in 21 American cities, awarded her the Portland Visual Artist of the Year award. Click here to see her profile.
But it’s the intrinsic reward that she cherishes about her art. Her favorite painting, a self portrait, is called “Jade.” Rademacher celebrates it as her “aha” moment of taking her vision from a sketch book and translating it to canvas.
“One of my biggest enjoyments with art is one when someone’s looking at it and the dialogue they’re sharing,” she says. “I think that’s what the beauty of art is. Every single person is going to take away something different. That’s the biggest enjoyment for me.”
With the Portland honor, Rademacher is now eligible for RAW’s national award. The winner will be announced Dec. 12.