We had the good fortune of connecting with Lara Lenhoff and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lara, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
In many ways, I feel that art really chose me. When I was a very young girl, I was incredibly fortunate to have one of the most encouraging art teachers at school. My family and I had just moved to the United States from South Africa, and I think my teacher could pick up on how difficult assimilating was for me. Ever since I was small I always loved drawing and being creative and that was encouraged by my grandparents and parents. I always had markers and crayons. When I was in my teacher’s classroom, he really encouraged the little I knew about art and nurtured what developed into stronger skills. What he did for me was provide an outlet to cope with things, and that has served me well throughout my life; I have always come back to creating, even if I didn’t necessarily share what I was creating with others. I never studied art formerly because art has always been that one incredibly personal and special thing that has kept me in check, so I didn’t want to have a critical professor tear me to shreds in an art program; I wanted to continue to grow artistically, and independently. By the time I reached my twenties, I had set up space to create and would stay up late for hours, just doing exercises and making small pieces. I participated in an arts festival when I was 25 and sold a couple of pieces and at that time, it just really confirmed for me that this could be something I could do to express myself and maybe try and earn an income. I painted all the time, in between jobs and whenever I could, developing my style further and further. In my thirties and after going through a lot of personal struggles, art just proved to be the one thing that kept me together. I kept at it and never gave up on myself. In 2014, I met with a curator in Dallas and was invited to exhibit in her space. She too was very nurturing and supportive of my work, and I learned so much about curating from her that the following year, I started an independent art company called Artsy Monkey LLC. I found other local artists, photographers, and musicians and curated and coordinated shows in venues to get exposure for our work while giving back to non-profit organizations. Community engagement is crucial, and because of my dedication to donating proceeds to causes that were important, people really started to take me seriously as an artist and I started to build relationships and get clients. Within the last 6 years, I’ve sold work and have it all over the country in homes, restaurants, and offices. Last year, I exhibited in Miami during Art Basel. It was a moment in my life that I had worked so hard for, and showed me that when you invest in yourself, amazing things can happen. I have been represented by a gallery in Galveston for the past four years and have been very fortunate to have people support me and my work. I kept at it and keep at it and I will always create. I’m currently updating my website and working on a couple of different series. I guess art and I chose each other. I believe it is my purpose, and I put in the work, the commitment and dedication. Were there roadblocks? I can’t think of a career that doesn’t experience those. The thing is that once you find something you’re good at, don’t give up on yourself. You have to fight for your dreams in life, and if you fight hard enough, the dream becomes a reality.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My art is my life, and it’s inspired and influenced by the music that I listen to. The energy of the music influences the color palettes I utilize as well as what I am feeling emotionally. I think if there’s anything that separates me from anyone else is that I’m okay with being misunderstood by my peers- I don’t let opinions of others bother me anymore- that took a while to accept because I am a sensitive person and when I was younger I just overvalued opinions of others because I wanted to fit in. I am okay with not fitting in. I enjoy and appreciate my solitude. Life teaches you lessons about yourself and it’s up to you to learn from them. I got to where I am because of the work that I put in, and it wasn’t easy in many ways but in some ways it was. I never gave up on myself and I kept pursuing my dream. I took the time to market myself and collaborate with people that have changed my life and perspective. If there’s anything that I want the world to know about me and my story, is that I am a fighter. I have overcome many personal struggles, and keeping focused on creating has been the force behind everything I have achieved.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’ve known one best friend for going on 28 years and my other best friend for 26 years- and what’s so funny is that they have the same birthday. More than anything I would want them to meet and come with me to South Africa, where I am from originally. The food and culture there is unparalleled to anything I’ve ever experienced, and I would want to share that with them. We’d definitely go to the Waterfront to Willoughby and Co Seafood. There are fish there that you can’t get anywhere else in the world- mainly because we’re below the equator there and fish are caught locally and from both the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic. We’d go to Simons Town to see the penguins on the beach and then to Stellenbosch to see the beautiful gardens and have high tea at the hotel there that my family and I always visit when we go back home. I miss South Africa all the time. The food, the ocean, the places to explore are all magical.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Arthur Fogie, Scott and Samitha Edwards, Rosemary Ladner, Mickey, Josh Turin, Ron Levin, and my parents.
Instagram: @laralenhoff24, @designmonkey1980
Other: I am also a singer songwriter, and my husband helped me create an official music video for a song I wrote. I have been playing piano since I was 8 years old. I love experimenting with harmonizing vocals. This song is about overcoming obstacles in life and also, asking for help when you need it.