SOMETIMES YOU JUST KNOW WHAT YOUR SOUL SATISFYING SIDE HUSTLE IS ALL ALONG: AN INTERVIEW WITH TEACHER-ARTIST MARY LOUISE PORTER
It was the summer of 1996. I was living and working in Pineville, Louisiana. I owned my own dance studio at this time and was involved in a community children’s theatre program in my hometown of Alexandria. During the summers I taught children’s art and theatre camps. I was the choreographer and dance teacher. This particular summer, we hired an art teacher from Natchitoches. Mary Louise Porter. Every day after the kids were picked up at noon, I would wander into her room and marvel at the work her young students were creating. They were making block prints out of potatoes and fish and sponges and all sorts of other fun, icky things the kids loved touching. This art teacher was not afraid to get messy, not afraid to experiment and allow her students to experiment. We clicked right away and began going for lunch and coffees.
Two years later I ended up in Natchitoches and we reconnected. By this time, Mary Louise was painting large landscape pieces portraying the Northwest Louisiana agrarian scenery and was being commissioned to paint pieces for album covers for local musicians and outdoor murals in Shreveport. She was still teaching art to high school and college students (and teaching children’s camps in the summers and private lessons after school), but somehow also found time to hone her own skills and become the accomplished fine art painter she is today.
Fast forward, twenty-two years from the time we met (wow, how time flies) and now Mary Louise, this beautiful, vivacious, free-spirited, spontaneous, woman I met twenty-two years ago is the featured artist this month at the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum in a show entitled Louisiana Vibrations Red River Valley where her 7 x 12 foot painting by the same name will be in the permanent collection.
For this first edition of my Soul-Satisfying Side Hustle series, my very special guest is teacher-artist, Mary Louise Porter. When I finally caught up with Ms. Porter recently, (she is a busy woman to catch up with - talk about a mover and shaker and busy movement maker!) I got to ask her some questions that I hope inspires you to follow your own heart and path in whatever creative or business endeavor you are feeling drawn to follow. This woman is inspiring and just plain fun and uplifting to be around.
Me: What inspired you to start your side hustle?
ML: I have always been a professional artist exhibiting and selling my paintings while I have taught art. After I retired five years ago I was able to put 100% into developing contacts to promote my work and continue painting full time in the studio. During these five years, I have been honored to be featured in Louisiana Life Magazine and in John Kemp's new book Expressions of Place: The Contemporary Louisiana Landscape where my contemporary landscape paintings represent the Cane River area in Natchitoches and Northwest Louisiana.
Me: How do you balance your work and your personal life?
ML: Painting has always helped me to stay sane and healthy. It is that connection to the universe as a whole. An avenue to express my soul and passions through the landscapes that surround me daily. Some people are born to be musicians, writers, I was born to be a painter. I have always known what I wanted to do in life - create.
Mary Louise continues, “It is that nurturing of my creative side that balances my [work and] personal life. A yin-yang philosophy to life.”
Me: What has been the most exciting or inspiring part about having a side hustle?
ML’s reply: The exciting and inspiring part of promoting my art is to see the pieces of the puzzle fall together. So far...so good.
While Mary Louise touts that “the pieces of the puzzle fall together,” I also know how authentic, persevering, and enthusiastic she is about her work. Her vibrancy for life and her creative initiative is infectious. When you are around her, you can’t help but want to promote the good work she is doing.
Me: What has been the most challenging element of having a side hustle?
ML: The challenge is the effort it takes to promote my work and time to dedicate to creating my paintings. As a woman growing up in the south to promote your work and push to succeed is sometimes socially difficult to not sound boastful. Instead, to be confident in yourself and your goals as an artist.
The message here is, don’t let having to promote yourself stop you from doing the work you were born to do. If you are being your most authentic self, then it won’t feel like self-promotion to you or to others.
Me: Would you recommend a side hustle to other teachers?
ML: Well, I would say if you have a passion and are hesitant to pursue it, my recommendation would be GO FOR IT! Put 100% into what you believe in for yourself. If you do not pursue it, you will never know if you could do it. You just have to have the philosophy of the little engine that could...I think I can...I think I can…
Ms. Porter is speaking my language now. I grew up with my mother reading The Little Engine that Could to me (don’t knock Little Golden Books, librarians) and it is still today the phrase looping through my head when I meet a new challenge. How do I know this artist-teacher really believes in what she is saying here? Because I received a text message from her recently along the very same lines. When I expressed my fear in moving forward with my idea for Literary Wanderings, she sent this message, “You need to give what you love 100%. How else will you know if it works unless you try?” It was just the push I needed to get moving and manifest my idea of empowering, inspiring, and encouraging teachers to live their lives with more adventure and passion.
Mary Louise Porter, once a classroom teacher just like you, is the featured artist this month in her own art exhibit called Louisiana Vibrations: Red River Valley at the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum in Shreveport, Louisiana June 3rd through June 29. There will be an artists’ reception on Sunday, June 3rd 2-4pm and her 7 x 12 foot painting entitled Louisiana Vibrations Red River Valley will be in the permanent collection. If you are in the Shreveport area this June, check out her work and soak in the inspiration to create your own path forward using your unique gifts and talents. Her energy, charisma, and positive Louisiana vibrations is inspiring, her success is empowering, and her demeanor is always encouraging.
If you are still trying to figure out what your Soul-Satisfying Side Hustle might be, check out this resource to help you discover your side hustle and move you in the direction of making extra income while you still enjoy your role as a teacher. This printable workbook includes 10 pages of content to help you discover your soul-satisfying side hustle, a resource page with links to recommended books, blogs, podcasts, and a FREE online course, as well as a FREE online strengthsfinder test to help you discover your unique talents.
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DISCLAIMER: At this time, I do not receive any income from the mention of products or services. Any products or services listed are strictly my own recommendations based on my own experiences and opinions.