PA Wilds Artisan Spotlight: Mixed-Media Artist Kim Gates Flick
Artist, educator, outdoor enthusiast.
Kim Gates Flick is all three.
The Centre County native practices en plein air artwork, teaches as a Visual Art professor at The Pennsylvania State University, and commonly refers to herself as “a native daughter of the Bald Eagle Mountains.”
Born a stone’s throw from the Bald Eagle Mountain and still living nearby today, along the I-80 Frontier of the Pennsylvania Wilds, Flick’s connection to the land extends back to her own roots and her adventures into the wilderness around her as a child. That connection is evident in her artwork, too.
“I ran over every inch of the place! Swimming, inner-tubing down the creek, hiking, biking, snowmobiling, sledding, skating, field sketching, foraging, and building forest cabins and tree houses were everyday events that left a trail of everlasting memories,” she recalls. “It truly fostered my creative spirit, love of the land and all things wild.”
When she wasn’t busy traversing nearby hillsides, creeks, fields and forests, she could be found creating something. Flick describes creativity as a part of her identity, and notes she doesn’t make art to make a living, necessarily.
Along Flick’s journey, mentors and kindred spirits encouraged her personal artistic development – but her ideals about art have remained the same and extend back to her youth and family life.
“My dad built a business from working with his hands as a contractor and mason. I helped him gather stones out of the mountain, and then watched in awe as he and my uncle laid them one by one to create the most beautiful fireplace and cabin chimney I ever saw. My mom can take a walk through the woods and call out plants by name for a variety of everyday purposes. My grandparents were some of the most sustainable people I have ever met. Creating something from nothing seemed to be ingrained in the fortitude of their being,” she said.
Flick graduated high school and 17 years later she enrolled in college, ready to earn credentials to continue to professionally pursue her passion for art. Flick earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Drawing and Painting and a minor in Equine Science from The Pennsylvania State University and went on to earn her Master of Fine Art from Vermont College of Fine Art.
It was during her time studying in Vermont that she was exposed to a program founded by G. Roy Levin, wherein art students were taught that “art does not exist in a void, but within a social context.” The program championed process over product, as well as critical thinking and awareness of art as experience – and Flick says she shares the program’s legacy to this day in her own teachings.
Flick’s career has always been tied to education and art. Prior to accepting her position with Penn State 10 years ago, she’s served as a program director for a nonprofit art school, taught art and graphic design for a local business college as well as other community events and outreach programs. She’d also served as a substitute teacher in public schools, and had spent time as a free-land artist, photographer, and gallery coordinator.
“My multi-faceted work history has always combined creativity and education to share my passion for art in service to the community and my family,” she explained. “What I enjoy the most is sharing the creative process with others and that keeps me teaching. In the arts, we don’t deliver content, we create content – the students have it within themselves. I am just a coach or a mentor nurturing and holding the space for them to bring forth their own artistic expression. It truly is a journey of self-discovery, and when that creative spirit ignites – it is like opening the greatest gift.”
As a mixed-media artist who loves exploring the possibilities of art, it’s difficult for Flick to choose a favorite medium, but she admits she especially enjoys working with soft pastel. “It is perfect for working in the space between [drawing and painting]; you get the immediacy of drawing with the color complexity of painting,” she said.
Flick likes to select the medium used for a project based on what she is working on, or where she is making it. “For instance, working on location, en-plein-air, it is important to travel light, so I am often with a sketchbook and watercolors,” the artist explained.
Much of Flick’s artwork focuses on the relationship between the subject matter and herself and she describes her work as a “multi-sensory experience” depicting the “wildest regions of our state in the wildest state of imagination.”
“Whether or not the works result in ‘realistic” imagery, they represent my experiences. I consider my work a journey, an investigation into the creative consciousness,” Flick said.
While Flick doesn’t favor a particular artistic movement, she values honesty of artistic expression. “I can become equally enamored by the images of the cave paintings of Lascaux or the white work embroidery that immigrant women brought with them to America as I can be impressed with the large prestigious works that are hung in our top museums,” she said.
Some of her favorite artists include Helen Frankenthaler, Georgia O’Keefe, Louise Nevelson, Faith Ringgold and Marc Chagall.
Flick is a juried Professional Artisan in the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania, and is also a member of the Central Pennsylvania Pastel Society, The Farmland Preservation Artists, Art Alliance of Central PA, The Philadelphia Sketch Club, The Bellefonte Museum of Art, Clinton County Art Council, Plein Air Force, Urban Sketchers, PA-WAgN, and Women in the Wilds.
When she isn’t exploring the outdoors or depicting it, Flick enjoys trying new cooking recipes, finding new foods and restaurants, and spending time with friends and family. Flick’s husband, Stacey, works for the PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources at Moshannon State Forest and shares her love for the outdoors. The couple has two children and five grandchildren.
Learn more about Kim Gates Flick and her artwork by visiting www.wildaways.com/.
One of rural Pennsylvania’s largest networks of creative entrepreneurs, the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania (WCO) is the main program through which small businesses and nonprofits – from artisans to breweries to B&Bs to outfitters to retailers to restaurants to galleries to designers to videographers – engage with the Pennsylvania Wilds brand, networks and platforms. Functionally, the WCO is the listings backbone for the regional visitor site pawilds.com; the product supply line for the PA Wilds Conservation Shops physical and online stores; and the entry point for those looking to team up on PA Wilds licensed products in the market place. The PA Wilds Center promotes the WCO as part of the overall Pennsylvania Wilds experience. The PA Wilds Center promotes the WCO as part of the overall Pennsylvania Wilds experience. Visit WildsCoPa.org to learn more.