Whitney Ferré is an artist, teacher and author, but when you start to peel back the layers, you begin to unveil both the complicated woman and the woman with the amazingly uncomplicated theory. My journey with the Chicago native began in the late 1990s as she was making her debut on the national television show called Our Place, which aired on HGTV. As her producer, I had no idea that she had far bigger plans than just to demonstrate crafty home projects for the eager-to-learn audience. In fact, her aspirations were to help people realize their lives’ dreams through the power of art.
As a painter, she is becoming well known around the Nashville area. In fact, she is often commissioned to paint for businesses and individuals. This mother of three and step-mom of one takes care of the kids, runs the very artsy wine bar Rumours on 12th with her business partner Christy Shuff, teaches workshops and corporate training seminars, and travels extensively to promote her book. She is just like every working mother, with one exception: her purpose in life is to teach others that everyone has an artist within and that it is not as hard as you might think to bring the artist out.
Every step along the way of Ferré’s life has led to her endeavor to live and teach her theory, to “unleash the artist within” using the right brain, the creative side, to live more fully and more completely. This idea is both simple and complex and is one that has evolved over the years, starting with her childhood.
“As a child I was really active, so my mother was always buying craft projects for me to do,” she says. With her days filled with salt dough, Shrinky Dinks, and sewing projects which she sold in lieu of lemonade, Ferré recalls her workshop underneath the basement stairs with the words Art Center stenciled above the opening. “It was nothing fancy, but the neighborhood kids would come over, and I would lead art classes.” Even at that young age, it was a sign of things to come—namely The Creative Fitness Center, an art workshop that Ferré founded as the launching point for her platform of teaching people to reach deep inside and find their artist mentality.
Through each step of her career, she knew that she had a purpose, and even though she had little training and didn’t consider herself a professional artist, she had done the research and had lived the plan. She knew she needed to get the word out that Creative Fitness is real, and it can help people to fulfill goals and dreams in their lives, both personal and professional.
So what exactly is Creative Fitness and how is it used to release the artist within? The science aspect has to do with using the right brain (the creative side) in conjunction with the left brain (the analytical side). Ferré describes it like this: “Imagine that your brain is one of those old-timey switchboards where an operator has to pull the cords and get the information to the right spot. On the left side, the operator is swamped with calls coming in, and she’s constantly saying ‘hold please, hold please.’ On the right side, the operator has very little going on. She’s sitting there filing her nails, waiting for a ringy-dingy. Of course, the left side of the brain is getting a strenuous workout, while the right side sits begging and pleading to be worked and stretched just a little bit. So, if you give the right operator something to do, you strengthen your brain. That’s the theory in a nutshell.”
To take it one step further, Ferré says that the sheer act of doing something artistic or creative will open up your mind to a whole new level, and even the decisions in your life will be easier to make. All you have to do is participate in creative exercises, which will work out your brain a bit more evenly, and your brain will work better for you.
Through her years of research, reading, and actually watching what happens when her students live “creatively fit,” she is convinced that science and art go hand in hand. She teaches this in her classes and seminars and blogs about it to her faithful following. With quotes from Albert Einstein and postings of results of scientific studies and readings, she makes it very easy for nonbelievers to believe.
As more people hear about and participate in Creative Fitness, Ferré gets great satisfaction from the results that occur. When speaking of classes that her students have taken over the years, she states, “The bottom line was people came to the classes and left with a twinkle in their eyes,” which gave them the renewed passion for life. Most importantly, that creative stimulation encouraged people to take on projects that they had put off for years and make positive changes in their lives. They were becoming creatively fit!”
Though no creative activity is discouraged, Ferré believes you can take a fast track to unleashing the artist within by painting. It doesn’t have to be good, and it certainly will never be perfect, but fears and chains will be broken once a blank canvas has been conquered. Painting is her tool of choice in both her Painting Made Easy classes and her corporate workshops, where she teaches how to work together as a team, overcome doubts about your abilities, and come up with solutions using your right brain, all through art.
“The idea from the very beginning is that I’m going to make art important and valid for business people,” says Ferré. The result of her efforts encourages people to enjoy their work and to tap into their brains to bring out their full potential, and it also makes them more disposed to supporting arts in the community. The big picture is that making art is an intrinsic need, and, by not doing it, we’ve disabled part of what makes us human. Supporting arts in a community is not just about recreation and culture, although those are two very important aspects. It is also about creating a community that is empowered to create change. Communities with dynamic arts programs also show strong track records in things like environmental impact and urban planning. Ferré says, “A community that is creatively fit is going to see these different problems as opportunities to create change.”
We all seem to concentrate on our physical fitness, and that is very important. But take a moment to consider what you do to keep your brain in shape. Maybe Ferré is right. Take the time to work your most important muscle—your brain. And when you work it out, use art as the exercise.
Ferré’s book is called The Artist Within: A Guide to Becoming Creatively Fit. More information can be found at her website: www.creativelyfit.com.
by Beth Knott