How an island mentorship program helped a young artist sell her first work
“Andromeda” draws you in. Its whimsical subjects — an octopus, fish and ocean flora — conjure up a fantastical world below the sea. The painting is named after an Ethiopian princess, who in Greek mythology is saved by a sea monster after her parents try to sacrifice her to save their kingdom from the wrath of god Poseidon.
The painting’s textural, three-dimensional quality and vibrant mix of consciously chosen colors beckons to be touched. It recently sold at ArtWalk in downtown Galveston for $225.
One might be surprised to learn the artist, Shaifer Goalen, is 12 years old. Goalen, a seventh-grader at Trinity Episcopal School, created “Andromeda” as part of a new mentor program for children offered by Amy Owens, owner of Clay Cup Studios in downtown Galveston.
Originally from Fort Worth, Texas, Goalen has lived in Galveston since she was 3 and has created art for just as long, she said.
“Since I was a baby, my mom used to give me paint and sponges and paper and I would just throw paint at it.”
Art came naturally to her, she said. And she was influenced by her mom’s crafting, too.
Over the years at school, she learned techniques such as watercolor, acrylic and oil painting.
“I just picked up on it and would paint for fun,” Goalen said.
When Clay Cup Studios opened, Goalen visited often, she said.
“I came and painted pottery and canvas,” she said. “I would come to a lot of the teen nights.”
But when Owens began the mentoring program, it gave Goalen a chance to start a project she would work on for a long time and create something she could eventually sell at ArtWalk, an event that every six weeks draws hundreds to Galveston’s downtown.
Goalen worked on “Andromeda” the entire summer, often spending five hours at a time and using a specialized bottle of glue with a needlepoint tip and a pair of tweezers, painstakingly gluing strips and spirals of paper to her painted canvas, she said.
The technique is known as quilling, an art form that people don’t really do anymore, Owens said.
In addition to “Andromeda,” which was the first painting Goalen has sold, she has been commissioned to create a mermaid using the same technique.
“I’ve always wanted to be an artist,” Goalen said. “But I also want to go to college to become an engineer; that also has an art process to it.”
Owens wanted to find someone to mentor who loved art and to create things, she said. After mentioning the program to a few girls, Goalen was the first one who jumped on it, Owens said.
The idea for a mentor program has been on Owens’ mind for some time. Modeled after a Girl Scout internship program for teens, the program was a way to do something for Goalen’s age group.
“In that age group, you have so much pressure on you of being a certain way,” Owens said.
Owens’ art program is meant to be an outlet for young children to express themselves and relieve stress, she said.
The young participants also gain valuable skills, such as learning how a business operates and working on community projects.
“During the summer, Shaifer was here, with an apron on, working side by side with my staff, helping people,” Owens said.
Goalen also helped paint the mural at the new community pool at Lasker Park in Galveston, Owens said.
Owens said she hopes to involve Goalen with her work with the city of Galveston’s Commission on the Arts, allowing the young artist to observe firsthand how art projects around the city come to fruition.
“I think it’s educational for her, she gets a perspective on how much effort things like that take, and how many people it takes to do these events and philanthropy projects,” Owens said.
Originally from Miami, Owens has lived in Galveston for 18 years with her husband and three children. She comes from a family of artists — from singers, photographers and producers — all who also paint.
“I’ve always been creative, but I was more of a business major,” Owens said.
Tired of having to leave the island to find creative activities for her children, Owens was inspired by a pottery painting business at Baybrook Mall, she said.
“I used to say, ‘Gosh, we really need something like this in Galveston,’” Owens said.
Clay Cup Studios, which opened in 2015, offers activities for all ages — from pottery, canvas and glass painting to courses taught by local guest artists. The studio is available for birthday parties, bachelorette parties and baby showers as well.
Clay Cup Studios also participates in community outreach, sponsoring field trips to the studio for underprivileged kids. Owens also hopes to work with her husband, Justin, a Galveston police officer, to develop a program that rewards children for good grades with time in the studio. Owens wants to show children that hard work can pay off, while helping build better relationships between police officers and children.
Owens plans to offer a mentorship program to other children in the community and said it would continue to evolve.