Have you ever heard the term ‘starving artist’? It defines a person who makes art for the sake of making art, hoping to make a living doing what they love. If you want to call Natalie Ray a starving artist, we’d argue her plate is full – and she serves a heaping helping to the students of Jackson every week at The Cedars. Ray is the instructor for the newly instituted art instruction program in Fondren, started this past summer. “We had a diverse mix of the most talented young artists”, she tells us after finishing an afternoon session. The pilot program showed that art camps are possible at The Cedars and Ray hopes that after school lessons can become a regular event, too. “I was looking for a place to teach lessons and Fondren Renaissance was looking for a way to bring the arts to the Cedars”. It is a win for us both”.

Until this school year, Ray has taught lessons – for the past five or six years – at her kitchen table. Thirty students a week, she tells us, and now the Cedars allows for an even larger number, possibly bringing an additional instructor in in the future. A Millsaps graduate in business and art, Ray worked in the technology sector for ten years before pursuing art full time. “I started teaching art because a parent couldn’t find lessons for their child, she says, and I didn’t think I’d like it. But children this age bring you back to basics, and help you look at things in different way”. Ray says that helps her to ‘remember the obvious that you forget’. “It’s taught me to become a better artist by teaching, to think outside the box”.

A mother of three – a girl age 9 and two boys, ages 11 and 15, Ray says finding time to teach is hard – but important. “I grew up in public schools (Chastain, Boyd & Murrah) – so it is near and dear to my heart”, she says “to do programs with students who don’t have what my kids are lucky enough to have”. But even in private schools, Ray feels the arts are getting lost. This is why she says The Cedars program has happened at the right time and for the right reasons. “I’d love to see this place flowing with students wanting to create all the time. That’s my own personal goal”.

Ray’s work can be purchase in Fondren at her parent’s restaurant, Mimi’s Family & Friends, or by contacting her on Facebook or at natalie@natalieraydesigns.com.

I’d love to see this be flowing with students wanting to create all the time. That’s my own personal goal.