Art in Action Advocate Spotlight: Karen Canty

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Karen Canty has been a long-term advocate for Art in Action over decades. Besides her work on the Board of Directors, Canty has helped as both a donor and volunteer, even helping organize OBJECT: ART, our annual fundraising gala. We are thankful for her ongoing commitment to our mission and unwavering support of all that we do.


1) How did you get involved with Art in Action and how have you remained involved over the years?

I became a docent for Art in Action when my daughter was in kindergarten at Laurel School in Atherton. I taught both my children, but since it was just a K-3 program, I wasn’t involved for a few years afterward. However, I kept up with what was happening at AiA and was pleased when it became a K-8 program and a non-profit. In 2008, a fundraising lunch was held for AiA, and two years later Judy asked me to chair one in 2010. I chaired two lunch events and have stayed on the committee since then.

2) Why do you support or are active in Art in Action?

After becoming a docent, I realized how important art was to all kids.  They could express themselves without fear – even if all they wanted to do was draw daisies – and it was one of the places where all the kids were truly equal.

3) What is it about Art in Action that resonates with you?

I think we forget that Art in Action is not only an “art” class where kids can learn to do art projects using all different kinds of media, from acrylics to watercolor to clay. It is also an art appreciation class. When we spend a few minutes teaching about an artist, the students are learning about horizon lines, use of color etc. However, they are also learning about the artist which stays with them long after they are no longer taking AiA classes. 

An example: my son who dutifully completed the projects but never seemed particularly interested in them showed me how important the other part of the lesson was.  We took a trip to Europe when he was 16 and went to the Marmottan – an art gallery on the outskirts of Paris that is housed in Monet’s son’s home and has many impressionist works. As he was riding down the escalator, he said “Mom, look there’s a Pissarro…you know, the guy with the dots!” Both of my now-adult children still enjoy going to art museums, and I attribute that to learning about art from an early age.

4)  What do you think is the best way for people to get involved with Art in Action? 

The best way is through their children. I learned so much when I was a docent – even when it only went through 3rd grade so I can only imagine what the rest of the curriculum teaches. I know it’s hard in some low-income schools to get parents involved, but if teachers in those schools teach it and their children bring home their projects, they will become vocal supporters if not monetary ones or docents. The other group of folks who should be approached are boards at art museums. They generally have programs for kids, but they could be a great introduction to schools and we know that they love art already!

5) Anything else to add about AiA?

Because I was a docent, I came to appreciate art in a way I never had before. I had not taken any art appreciation classes in college so when I first went to the Art Institute in Chicago, I really didn’t know much about what I was seeing. I just knew I loved the impressionists – especially Monet! As I learned about other artists by teaching my kids, I began to look for things at the museums I went to that I never had before and although Monet is still my favorite, I have learned to appreciate other styles of art and other artists. I especially appreciate seeing art from the Black/Hispanic communities.

One of the best paintings I’ve ever seen was a depiction of the Battle of Little Bighorn on deerskin drawn by an Oglala Sioux who was at the battle in the St. Louis Museum. It opens eyes to other cultures other than our own and can hopefully deepen our understanding of those cultures.


Art in Action has provided accessible arts education to 86,000 students in over 30 states nationwide and we’re still expanding. However, there are 4 million kids without accessible visual art lessons. Join us in our mission to bring arts education worldwide!

NEW: The Art in Action Studio Series is now available! Keep your children creative and engaged today with our art lessons, available for those with or without online classes! (schools, individuals)