Local Artist Angie Kilcullen and Barn Again HOME

Barn Again HOME was born of the same spontaneous spirit that embodies most of Angie Kilcullen’s art: Take something old and make it new again. Kilcullen’s art studio and workshop is housed in the 115-year-old barn located in the backyard of her Victorian home, near Antiques Row in Old Town Kensington, MD. A busy wife and mother of four, Kilcullen spends as much time as possible in her converted barn studio, renovating flea market finds into shabby chic furniture pieces and decorative accessories, prepping for art classes or paint night parties, or working on her own art.

Kilcullen hails from Rayne, LA, a small city in southwest Louisiana Cajun country, which, ironically, boasts the nickname “Louisiana City of Murals.” Kilcullen’s mother noticed a unique perspective in her drawings, as early as first grade, where her drawing for Parents’ Night was so different from the rest of her class. She enrolled soon after in private art lessons, which continued on into high school. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in art painting from nearby McNeese State University and got a master’s degree in mixed media art from University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Her art professors saw authenticity in her work, which began to center on social justice issues rooted in her Catholic faith. She painted homeless men she saw on the streets of Lincoln, but all of her work seemed dreary and gloomy. One professor, while observing her work in the studio, saw a rose in a glass on a windowsill and told Kilcullen that the rose represented what was missing from her work: hope. With that inspiration, her paintings took on new life.

After her first trip to Europe in the summer of 1988, she became enamored with the opulence in churches, specifically the many different textures she was experiencing in the countries she visited. Upon her return home, she began creating monstrances, religious vessels in the shape of a sunburst atop a cross, used for holding the consecrated host for Adoration. Kilcullen’s monstrances were painted on wood and then embellished with old photos, shards of broken glass, plastic flowers — anything to glorify the existence of everyday people she encountered.

In hopes of avoiding the 9-to-5 lifestyle so that she would have time to work on her art, Kilcullen eventually found a full-time job as a flight attendant in Washington, D.C. This allowed her the flexibility she needed. She painted on her days off from flying, entered into some juried exhibitions to get her work out there, and sold enough of her pieces to gain self-confidence.

Her eventual marriage to an attorney and businessman moved her to Japan and then to Paris until 2002. Living in Tokyo provided her the opportunity to travel extensively. Kilcullen said, “I was always absorbing art, in the way the Japanese prune their trees, the way they celebrate everything with great attention to detail.” Life in Paris was a “visual feast,” again providing lots of travel and a lot of museums to visit.

Being a stay-at-home mom didn’t allow much time to create art, but she fed her passion through her children, creating jewelry and decorations for the home with her two daughters. As they grew older, she created Camp Yaya (which in Cajun Louisiana means “little ones”), a summer art camp for neighborhood girls. Now in its eighth year, both boys and girls come together to create art using almost entirely recycled materials, a nod to her own mixed media art.

In 2004, Kilcullen became one of the co-founders of Holy Redeemer Catholic School’s annual arts festival in Kensington, MD, where regular classes are halted for a few days so that students can focus on art and creativity. That first year she was amazed to find something awakened inside her, something that as she admits, “blew my mind at the time.” She shared, “We would dump a bunch of doodads, baubles, and beads on a table, and 45 minutes later, these kids had created masterpieces.” She began to “noodle” on how she could make art — both her own and teaching it — more of a focus in her life.

About Michelle Blanchard Ardillo

Michelle Blanchard Ardillo is a full-time language arts teacher at St. Jude Regional Catholic School in Rockville, Maryland, as well as a part-time freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter @michardillo or on her website, www.michelleardillo.com.

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