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Building Community Through Art

Building Community Through Art

Wendi Jensen Art Class
Wendi Jensen Owner Of Art Undgerground Downtown
Wendi Jensen Poses In The North Village With A Summer Camp Group Of Kids
Wendi Jensen Art Class
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Wendi Jensen Owner Of Art Undgerground Downtown

Art Underground Downtown fosters creative expression.

One of the best artistic options for kids has seemingly sprung up from underground in downtown Columbia.

Art Underground Downtown is a place for kids of all ages to go, learn, grow, and be themselves — a place where they can feel they belong and that they are a part of something. Founded eight years ago, the organization continues to grow.

In 2015, Wendi Jensen was an art teacher in the Liberty, Mo., public school system. She began giving a few of her friends’ children private art lessons and as the number of students rapidly grew, Wendi realized she could provide private lessons on a full-time basis. She left the school district and focused her energy on the new endeavor.

Wendi’s own artistic path began when she was a child.

“I grew up as the kid who saved every Hershey’s Kiss wrapper so I could add them to some art project,” she says on her website. “I won coloring contests but stunk at any sport my parents had me try. My patient mother even let me paint all of my bedroom furniture and do chalk art all over the basement’s cement walls.” Eventually, her mother connected Wendi with an adult oil painting class, and Wendi found the outlet she needed for her “trash-saving, creative self.”

After moving to Columbia, Wendi decided to reopen, found a location in The Walnut Building at 1001 E. Walnut St., and named her business Art Underground Downtown. It’s a place where children can go to learn about and appreciate all forms of art, and connect with others who are forming a passion for artistic expression. Wendi has seen it become that place where some children have found a place to fit in, where they can build a community, feel comfortable, and return for new classes.

The programming focuses on children ages kindergarten through 12th grade. Classes are primarily in the evening after school, but some homeschool classes are offered during the day. The curriculum is designed appropriately for each grade level, and the classes stay together with the same teachers for continuity. One example of classwork is zeroing in on one artist’s work, learning about that artist’s life and style of art, then practicing some of those styles and techniques.

All forms of art are practiced and taught in the classes: from basket weaving to painting, crafts and clay pottery, and even illustrations and drawing. Wendi employs other enthusiastic artists to help teach and recently added some adult classes to the roster. Expansion is ongoing as Art Underground Downtown has secured more space at its location, creating the ability to add more teachers, more adult classes, and more space to accommodate the rapidly-growing number of children attending.

Art Underground Downtown offers summer camps, too. This summer’s camps will have 330 spots, up from the 200 spots available last summer, and 283 spots have already been filled. The camps have scholarships available. Those who complete classes as children may come back after high school for a paid internship role if the students are interested in that opportunity.

The future looks promising for the growing community of Art Underground Downtown with expanding the space, teaching staff, and curriculum. Wendi’s goal is “to be a light in Columbia for kids who love the arts and to be a good influence for young people of our community.” 

Wendi states on her website that being able to provide a venue for kids who love to create “has been ideally rewarding.”

“Problem-solving, critical thinking, and using that right side of the brain are so important in forming young minds,” she said. “I have seen such validation on the faces of my students when their work is shown in public and complimented. I love running into former students and seeing how they’ve grown artistically and made their way into design vocations.” 

Art Underground Downtown

1001 E Walnut St.
(573) 355-2255

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