The Creative Life in Our Cities: A Conversation with Mary Lou Stropoli

We have many talented artists and creatives living and working in our Farmington/Farmington Hills community and our weekly interview series, sponsored by City Life Realty, will introduce you to some of them.

Today we feature artist and creative entrepreneur Mary Lou Stropoli, owner of That Art Girl, offering DIY products that facilitate art making for everyone.

When did you first get started in the arts?

I’ve been an artist since I was a kid.  It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, with the exception of being an art teacher.  

Did you receive formal training in art?

I have a BFA (Bachelor’s of Fine Art) from The University of Michigan and a K-12 Certification in Art Education.  I loved learning all aspects about art production and developing the skill set to support that passion in others. Teaching others the fundamentals of art and helping them discover, develop, and express their creativity is at the heart of my teaching philosophy; I help others to see and appreciate their own giftedness as well as the talents of others.

When we create and are true to our talents, we develop into the best versions of ourselves.

Has your art appeared in any city programs or events, such as the Public Art Program at City Hall or Art on the Grand?

I’ve sold at Art on the Grand for the past two years.  I started selling at Founder’s Festival way back in the day when the art was still under the big yellow and white tent (Now I’m dating myself)!  I also teach Watercolor for Farmington Hills Cultural Arts. 

Can you share a favorite quote about art or life?

Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

What advice or suggestions do you have for younger artists? 

The active process of manifesting an artwork from concept to final product is a thrill that may be unrivaled. The process itself evokes a sense of awe and wonder. Art students tend to be well-rounded individuals with strong decision-making skills, visual thinkers with a broad world view. In the workplace, individuals with these skills sets are often innovators and sought after with high regard. (Think: Google.) Ironically, I often see parents discouraging their children from pursuing a career in the arts. To the younger artist, I urge you to follow your passion to where your heart lies. Although there isn’t always a road map, you are competent and can forge a fulfilling life for yourself in the arts.

What do you think is missing from the arts community in Farmington/Hills?

I’ve always dreamed that we could have a collective arts space, where artists could maintain studios and open them for First Night Events.  The community as a whole would benefit from an artists’ community whereby collaboration and interaction are commonplace.

Why is celebrating and promoting art healthy for a local community?

I believe in the unifying power of art—it connects people of all ages, backgrounds, interests and abilities. It’s my personal belief that we are all creators in some fashion. When we create and are true to our talents, we develop into the best versions of ourselves. The making and viewing of art literally brings people together across cultures and continents. The process of creating can change lives by building self-confidence, harnessing imagination, helping to practice problem-solving, and bridging differences. 

Learn more about Mary Lou Stropoli and her work here and here.

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