Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Artist, Teacher & Community Leader: Dana Helms

Guest Writer: Lesley Montgomery, OVAC summer Intern

The ever growing art community in Oklahoma is present not just in the bustling areas of downtown Oklahoma City and Tulsa, but also in the nearby suburbs as well. Dana Helms, founder and teacher at The Upside Down Artist, instructs children and adults on the fundamentals of art in Historic Old Town Moore. I had the privilege of communicating with Helms via email and ask her some questions concerning her vision for this one of a kind art program in Oklahoma. Below is the question and answer session from that conversation.
Dana Helms, Butte Mountains, Acrylic Paint
Leslie Montgomery: In your own words, please explain exactly what The Upside Down Artist program is and what your goal is as far as its place in the Oklahoma artistic community.
Dana Helms: The Upside Down Artist program is designed to take students for any age into a full time "working artist" career locally or world wide.  My goal is to create artistic opportunities through film, animation, commercial, and upside down performance.  If my students have a small business up and running before they leave high school, they have a greater chance to continue in that career.  

LM: What initially gave you the idea for the premises of The Upside Down Artist?
DH: I didn't have a lot of support while growing up.  My dream was to own and operate an artist business but no one provided me with any guidance.  I had to learn a lot on my own.  I am a very determined person, but a lot of young people are not.  They simply give up!  I do not want that to happen so I have designed my classes to be goal driven, not just a "daycare" activity. 

LM: When students sign up for your art classes, what is your goal as far as progressing their interest in art as well as their artistic skills?

DH:  I start them off with a group of lessons that assists me in figuring out what kind of artist they might be (commercial, 3-D, computer, painter, etc.).  Then after they complete the lessons, I design projects that will bring out their creative ideas

LM: You're starting what I believe is the first film festival in Moore, Oklahoma. Could you explain a little bit about what will be taking place as well as the type of films you may be looking for?

DH: I am proud to announce the Moore Reel International Film Festival - July 21 thru 23, 2011.  It is a Thursday through Saturday event and will start at 10am and go until around 9pm on Thursday and Friday. 10am to 5pm on Saturday.  We will have an awards ceremony on Saturday evening around 7pm in the Old School Building Auditorium.  For more info, go to my website at and go to the Moore Reel tab. 

We are looking for all kinds of films (categories are on the website).  We specifically want to bring in local filmmakers (students of all ages, independent and novice). 

These films will be judged by Sean Murphy and Audrey Hendricks with Trifecta Communications.  They will also be reviewing and promoting the event on the Friday before the festival.  It is really exciting!!!

LM: You transitioned from a government employee to a full time artist in 1995. What advice would you give to those who are seriously considering that same type of transition?

DH: I always recommend three types of income when you are pursuing a working artist status.  My job description is A) art instructor, B) performing upside down artist, and C) commissioned artwork.  This gives a balance to your earning power.  You also have to be prepared to work 24/7.  It is a very time consuming career, but you are working for you.  That's the big reward!

The Upside Down Artist is located in the Old School Business Center at 201 North Broadway, Suite 208 in Moore, Oklahoma. Many new events are occurring within this program including a new and interactive Website slated for July 1st. For more information on events and classes call Dana Helms at 405-203-2834 or simply click on one of the links listed in the interview. 

1 comment:

amyy said...

This is really inspirational! So glad to see people caring for artists and not only encouraging them, but also giving them tools to succeed!