“I was always encouraged by my family. I remember my first ‘portraits’. They would be of my family around the Thanksgiving table when I was four years old. My family made a big deal of them. It was so encouraging, so I continued to take art throughout grade school.”
Browning, who teaches several classes at the McKinney Center, including charcoal portraits and beading, did not stop her pursuit of perfecting her art in grade school. In high school, she had an art teacher, Paul Rupert, who realized Janet’s talent. He allowed her to work separately from the rest of the art class, introducing her to more complicated medias and methods.
“When I saw the effort he was making to help me become a better artist, it led me to pursue the arts as a living,” Browning said.
In college, Browning majored in figure drawing as well as oil painting and received her degree in Art and Education from East Tennessee State University. She also spent time at the Art Students League in New York City.
After her studies, she taught art in the public school system for seven years, before founding ArtSmart Inc., which is an after-school art enrichment program that later became KidSmart. This program operated in eight states and employed over a hundred teaching artists. “This program was able to reach so many more students than I would have ever been able to reach in just one school. The program allowed me to share my love and appreciation of art to a much wider group of people.” Browning says of her impactful program.
Browning also owns and operates Hands Around the World, a store on Jonesborough’s historic Main Street that sells art from around the world that Browning purchases during several trips each year.
“My other love is travel, where I get to discover more about the cultures of the world, especially traditional ones.” She says she has always been interested in people - their culture, their lives, their faces - and Hands Around the World helps her share the art from these cultures with people in this community.
Tying off the last thread to a necklace she has just completed while sitting in her shop, surrounded by artwork she has brought back from Ecuador and Nepal, she looks up and smiles. “The best is when I get to mix both my love of travel and my love of art.”
Browning brings her experiences of art, travel and culture to the McKinney Center this spring, where she will teach classes in portraiture and beading. Registration is now open for these classes. For more information about Janet Browning’s classes, contact Theresa Hammons at [email protected]
To see the full spring catalog, visit jonesboroughtn.org.
Community contributor Cameo Waters is the Director of Tourism & Marketing for Historic Jonesborough.