Janet Wallace and Jenna Hartzell are both art lovers and mothers of young children. The Atascadero, California duo was searching for materials like coloring books or kid-friendly activities to help share their enthusiasm for art with their youngsters. But they couldn’t find anything that comprehensively covered the rich, diverse history of global art –so Wallace and Hartzell decided to create a product of their own. The result is Page of Art History, a monthly subscription service that sends out printable coloring pages that aim to encapsulate a fuller chronology of art history, while also allowing children to interact with, color in and put their own spins on the world’s greatest masterpieces.
Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.
Tell us more about why you started your business.
We both have young children, and we agree that one of the best things about being a parent is watching our children make art. As art lovers and parents, we delight in the masterpieces our kids create – we hang their artwork on the fridge and mail it to the grandparents.
We’ve noticed something conspicuously absent from early arts education, though: context around art. A “Paw Patrol” coloring book can save a rainy day, no doubt, but we were looking for something different – something that would help our kids learn to love art, not only as a form of creative expression, but as a rich, diverse, important part of the human experience.
How is your business different from others in your industry?
We aim to be the premier art history resource for families, educators, and museums by making the act of learning about art history into something fun, engaging and cross-curricular.
Tell us about your biggest success so far.
Creating and launching a comprehensive resource for families, communities, and educators to teach kids about the history of art through coloring. Each of our hundreds of coloring sheets were hand-drawn by illustrator and Page of Art History co-founder Jenna Hartzell, and includes a link to view the original masterpieces through online museums around the world. Children can then color the page by staying true to the original — or they can let the crayons run wild! Give the Mona Lisa a neon glow up or put Michelangelo’s David in a pair of Bermuda shorts!
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Time. While starting this business, we have retained our full-time jobs, and still have families with small children to care for. We’ve taken on many late nights and full weekends to create this labor of love.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
We both studied art history in college, but struggled to find an excellent art history curriculum for our elementary-aged children. We would search for ideas on the internet, try to create our own at-home lessons, or build classroom projects from scratch to bring art history to our children’s classrooms. We realized that many kids could benefit from the resources we were creating.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Keep going! Just keep going!
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
We find inspiration in firsts: the first women artists to gain recognition as masters, the first to join the Royal Academy, the first to receive artistic commissions. It’s always inspiring to learn about women at the vanguard!
What is your go to song to get motivated on tough days?
Pharell Williams’ “Happy” puts us in a great mood.
Who is your most important role model?
Many of the artists we explore in Page of Art History were not famous during their lifetimes – some even lived in poverty. However, the artists created art because it moved them, inspired them, gave them purpose and made them whole. We find inspiration in their lives and seek to honor them through our work. ◼