KOKOMO, Ind. – While earning a degree in communications, Kami Noland spent many hours wandering through the Indiana University Kokomo Art Gallery, admiring the work and dreaming of being an artist.
“I would think how cool that was, to actually make art that could be exhibited,” she said. “It always felt like a faraway dream, like one of those big dreams that people just can’t pursue.”
Fifteen years later, not only is she included in a new exhibition at the IU Kokomo Downtown Art Gallery, but she’s hosted a solo exhibit, and had artwork featured on the HGTV show Good Bones.
“It almost doesn’t feel real,” said Noland, who graduated in 2003.
“I think of all the time I spent looking in the gallery, when art is really what I wanted to be doing,” she said. “I have a newfound knowledge that if you work towards your dreams, you will be ready when the opportunity arises.”
It’s been a long journey to success for Noland, who put aside her artistic dreams after graduating from Taylor High School. She worked for a few years before enrolling at IU Kokomo, where she chose a communications degree for its versatility while planning to be a stay home wife and mother.
She described herself as a “serial entrepreneur” after graduating, self-employed selling vintage items, making clothing and accessories, and consulting in marketing and communications. Painting became something she did sporadically, mostly to help herself when she struggled with depression, or needed to think about what was next in her life.
“Whenever I needed a place to rest, or something for just myself, I would go back to painting something,” she said.
She picked it up for a short time in 2010, inspired by an Andrew Wyeth exhibition at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. She saw a call for entries for a future exhibit at the museum, and submitted a landscape painting that was accepted. She became pregnant with daughter Roxie about the time the exhibition opened, and put aside painting again.
A move from Fort Wayne to Indianapolis led her to pick up her paints and brushes again, as she struggled with her father’s illness and death, and all the changes required in their move.
“After we moved, I started scoping out the Indianapolis art scene,” she said. “It inspired to so say, ‘I think I can do this, art school or no art school.’ My happiness and my joy depended on it. I got my paints out from where I had stored them, and I decided for the first time in my life, I’m going to focus on art. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last two years.”
Soon after she picked up her paints again, Noland entered a piece in the Indiana State Fair’s non-professional art competition, and earned an honorable mention ribbon. She placed another work in an abstract exhibition and won second place, which encouraged her to work harder.
As a long-time fan of the HGTV television channel, she was excited to learn about the Good Bones show, which features Indianapolis-based mother/daughter contractors Karen Laine and Mina Starsiak Hawk, owners of Two Chicks and a Hammer.
“I’d always thought if I lived in a city that had an HGTV show, I’d try to get in on that because it looks so fun,” Noland said, adding that she and her husband have renovated all of their homes to make them accessible for his wheelchair. “I love real estate and remodeling, and bringing old things back to life really strikes a chord with me.”
She contacted the show through her Instagram, and was put in touch with the designer who looked at her work and borrowed a few pieces to use when staging a completed home. It was featured on Season 4, Episode 2, which aired May 21. She’s also included on the show’s resource page on its website.
Noland is also excited about her homecoming, with two paintings featured in the IU Kokomo Downtown Art Gallery’s Small Works exhibition, which opens with a reception from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Friday, July 5. The exhibition continues through August 17 in the Gallery, 102 N. Main Street.
“It gives me goose bumps just thinking about it,” she said, adding that her mother, Margie McFarland, lives in Kokomo, and is thrilled to have her work in their hometown. She views it as a validation of her decision to be an artist.
“The biggest reason I didn’t pursue art before was that it was so important to me, I was scared to fail,” she said. “Because of that fear, I just didn’t try. I’m only two years in now, but so far, I’m not failing.”
Indiana University Kokomo celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana's choice for higher education.