CMA Stories

“The image you saw in your mind as a child when someone read a beautiful bedtime story to you … that is the image I want to paint” — Meet Artist-Educator in Residence Jacob Hicks!

While the museum is closed to the public, CMA’s inaugural cohort of Artist-Educators in Residence are turning the museum into their individual art studios as they develop The Look Make Show, the first digital commons of child-centered on-demand arts education. Below, meet Jacob Hicksa magic realist and illusionistic painter whose artworks give viewers the sense of being touched by magic.

What attracted you to CMA’s new Artist-Educator in Residence program?

As an educator and artist, my goal is to balance my personal studio practice with my teaching practice. At CMA, my paintings fuel my construction of educational content for The Look Make Show. I love working in this environment which allows my personal making to inform my teaching.

Can you tell us about your art practice and how working with children inspires you?

I am a magical realist and an illusionistic painter. That sounds complex, but it isn’t. It means I want my paintings to give whoever sees them the impression of reality. Not reality in the sense of objective, scientific actuality, but reality in the sense of actuality touched by magic, like in a myth or a fairytale. The image you saw in your mind as a child when someone read a beautiful bedtime story to you … that is the image I want to paint. Working with kids has clarified my personal imagery because children see more clearly through imagination than adults.

Do you have a favorite memory of making art as a child?

For me, art-making has always been an escape, like walking down a secret path guarded by a gate only I have the key to. Time and space disappear as I work. My favorite continual art-making memory is shutting off the worries of the everyday and walking down my path alone. This feeling of escape and relief while painting originated in childhood, where I would quietly paint for hours as the worried world around buzzed distractedly on the other side of my locked gate.

What advice would you give to young artists who wish to pursue an art practice?

Don’t ever believe anyone that tells you how you create is wrong. Others can (and will) make suggestions, declare absolutes, hand down insistence of every shape while preaching right and wrong according to them and for you. The artist must always return to the knowledge inside, truth is within. It has been there since our origin. Listen least to the most insistent and most to your own conscience. Humans, including me, are a very confused bunch. We think that maybe if we can hand out doctrines for others we are more in control of our own destinies, but it’s a fool’s errand and a waste of time and energy.

Why is it important to make art accessible to all children and families?

Making art is one of the oldest human activities. It is an innate primary tool for understanding and expressing. It is criminal to deny it to anyone, similar to not teaching a child to speak when they are ready.

If you could choose any artist to create a portrait of yourself, who would it be and why?

I want Rembrandt to return to life to paint me. His impasto (thick brush work) and heartbreakingly immediate emotive illusionism is beyond description.

Follow along with Jacob at

More in Artist-Educator Residency

Sign up to get updates and special invitations