The Art of Connection at ThinkArt

Tali Minelli examines baskets in Tanzania. Foreign travel, including to Israel to visit her relatives, often inspires the projects at ThinkArt.
Tali Minelli examines baskets in Tanzania. Foreign travel, including to Israel to visit her relatives, often inspires the projects at ThinkArt.

By Amy Forman

Published March 03, 2016, issue of March 03, 2016.

The creativity unleashed in Tali Minelli’s Marblehead ThinkArt studio is more than about making art.

“Art making is, in and of itself, valuable,” explains the graphic designer and mother of three. “But using art to make connections to culture and the world around us, I believe makes it really powerful.”

Born in Israel and raised in both Israel and the U.S., Minelli incorporates her love of travel and interest in other cultures into her multi-faceted approach in her weekday afternoon classes and summer sessions for children and her workshops for adults. Her bright, clean studio – a remodeled guest space attached to her Victorian home across from the Marblehead Veterans Middle School – is filled with examples of diverse projects. Shelves feature a colorful array of cloth baskets, clay pieces, hand-woven scarves and flowers made of origami, cloth and dyed coffee filters. Walls are lined with well-organized storage units holding an endless and varied supply of materials to pique every interest and satisfy every artistic desire.

Classes are thematic, according to Minelli, who studied graphic design at the University of Cincinnati, where her father, a Romanian-born Israeli doctor, was working at the University’s medical school. “My hope is that I encourage curiosity and questions and am able to share other cultural perspectives through art. We ‘travel’ to different countries and explore the culture through videos, stories and other visual materials. We use that cultural context as the foundation or inspiration for our art making. I think it makes it much richer for the kids.”

A bowl made of paper pulp
A bowl made of paper pulp

A recent focus on the use of natural materials in art offered students opportunities to explore using paper pulp to make bowls, clay to make leaf platters and chamsas, wool roving for felted soaps and glass fusing to make small bowls. Last summer’s exploration of Central and South America allowed students to experiment with metal work, yarn paintings, clay whistles, coiled baskets and masks. Currently, students are building round and square houses based on a book about a central African village that was almost completely destroyed by a volcano.

“We start out the year with a theme, and I encourage feedback. I ask them for wish lists – working with specific materials or learning about a certain country,” said Minelli. “It’s a fluid process.”

Inspired by her schoolteacher mother, Minelli says she has always liked art and working with children. She thanks her husband, Mark, whom she met while they both were UC students in the same graphic design program, for landing her in Boston after college. She started her career working in the design department and as art director for a travel company. But six years ago, she began her first foray into lessons for children, with the youngest of her three children and their friends serving as the program testers and with the ping pong table in the family’s basement serving as a workspace.

Chamsot made of clay
Chamsot made of clay

Minelli loved it from the start, and so did the first participants (including some homeschooled students). When parents asked for continuing lessons, ThinkArt was born. The studio was moved to a dedicated space and she now offers six weekly classes for 4-8 students, Mommy and Me classes for preschoolers, summer sessions, birthday parties and adult workshops. For inspiration, Minelli visits the library and museums like the PEM and MFA, and maintains her own collection of books of interest.

“I really enjoy folk art, mixed media and art based in the design world. You can see that in the art I explore with the students,” said Minelli. “Human beings in every culture have always made art. It’s one of the things that makes us human and it also provides a great vehicle for learning about culture, people and the nature of creative expression. My goal is to give students a safe space to be creative.”


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