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CURIOUS | How Does Artist Katy Garry Make Art Accessible for All?

CURIOUS | How Does Artist Katy Garry Make Art Accessible for All?

Photo: Liz Farrell Photography

What is art? It’s the kind of loaded question that has kept philosophers, poets, and academics gainfully employed for centuries. Katy Garry doesn’t have a definitive answer (thank goodness), but she does have a compelling response, and one that feels extraordinarily timely.

Garry may be ready to break down barriers between consumers and art, but she hasn’t emerged from the classic starving, angry artist mold.

Blonde-haired, sleek and preppy, she is a former fashion merchandiser for iconic American brands including Brooks Brothers and Coach. She genuinely loves playing golf and hanging out in the Hamptons, but she also evades the classic elitist, aristocratic artist mold. If anything, she can sound more akin to the classic starving, angry artist mold.

“Everything about art should be fun,” Garry says. “Making it, owning it, looking at it. There are too many barriers around original art. It tends to make people nervous, they think they can’t do it, and they think they can’t afford it.”

Photo courtesy of Katy Garry

Garry has created a new space for herself, and would-be creators and consumers. “Art doesn’t just belong in galleries and museums,” she argues. “I’ve shown my art in galleries, and that’s cool, of course, but what really gives me a thrill is working with people one-on-one to create affordable, original art that reflects their personality and their home.

Photo courtesy of Katy Garry

Her ready-made paintings — acrylic, encaustic, and mixed media on canvas, wood and paper — are colorful and energetic, as well as purposely affordable. The price for an original starts at around $250. Their mood is always upbeat, and take cues from nature and people. They exude emotion: some feel like a quiet walk on the beach as the sun sets, others feel like a just-this-side-of-wild, Champagne-fueled night out in Miami.

Garry loves creating works based on whimsy and moments of inspiration, but she says she is most passionate about her work with clients — individuals, interior design teams, boutiques even pizzerias — on commission.

Pizza box art commission for LaRosa

“There is nothing like seeing my work on the wall of someone’s home or store,” she says. “I love collaborating with people, getting a sense of who they are, and translating that into artwork.”

Her artwork, including murals, hangs in hundreds of homes in New York, the Bahamas, Vermont and Florida, sometimes in the form of murals.

Photo courtesy of Katy Garry


In addition to creating art for others, she helps children and adults find their inner artist.

“Picasso said it best when he said, ‘Every child is an artist. The problem is to remain an artist once they grow up,’” she says. “I work with Middle Schoolers every Friday in a Pop Art class, and I love how uninhibited they are. They don’t freak out and create rules and boundaries for themselves. They break rules of perspective, they instinctively just create worlds they find beautiful, and that inspires me.”

Photo courtesy of Katy Garry

She does pop-up Pop Art classes with adults, breaking the ice by playing music, sometimes starting a class with a game of Bingo, and adding a little wine to the mix.

“What I try to do is show adults how to paint like children: without fear,” she says. “Art is so subjective. Do you like it? Do you have fun creating it? Then it’s art.”

Garry’s approach to art is, in many ways, a metaphor for her approach to life. After living the Westchester-commuter lifestyle, and bringing three children into the world, only to never see them, she began asking herself some serious questions.

“The commute to the city was really starting to wear on me,” she shares. “I’d leave the house at 8 a.m., hug my kids goodbye and then get home after they were in bed. I just didn’t want to miss everything.”

She also wanted her kids to be a part of her working life while they were still young. Bidding adieu to corporate life — and its steady stream of paychecks, not to mention fabulous fashion discounts — wasn’t an easy decision for her to make, but in retrospect, it was the right one.

“I love having them visit me in my studio and work with me,” she says. “We all get messy, and have a great time. They also inspire me. Not just by their direct, fearless style, but in subject matter.”

One of her most popular and successful exhibits — the Star Wars-themed 2017’s Pop Art and Popcorn, at the Pelham Picture House — was inspired by them.

Photo courtesy of Katy Garry

“I still get requests for my Chewbacca portrait, but it’s in my kids’ room,” she laughs. “Everything else sold out, and I always tell people, ‘Chewbacca is spoken for, I’m sorry.’”

If you want to take a class, order a commissioned piece, or just snag a ready-made, go to katygarry.com.

We took Katy's Andy Warhol-inspired pop art class and had a blast!

After centuries of debate and examination, we still don’t know what art is. But thanks to a fed-up fashion exec, we at least know it doesn’t have to require a trust fund, a museum’s approval, or absolute solemnity. It’s okay — perhaps, dare we say it, even desirable? — for art to be fun, bold, even joyful.

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