“I Can Do This!”

When she signed up for her first class at the Columbia Art League, Dola Haessig was just looking for a distraction. What she got was a revelation.
“I was amazed at how free it made me feel!” she says. “It was just revelatory to go into a drawing class and find, ‘I can do this!’ ”
Haessig had long been interested in art. She was an avid amateur photographer, and at the University of Missouri, she served as the webmaster for the College of Arts and Sciences. She had even dabbled in sketching some through the years, but she hadn’t taken an art class since crossing off a college requirement. That was despite the fact that she volunteered for the Columbia Art League as a webmaster for about five years before taking her first class.
She did not at all expect the class to affect her like it did. She was so thrilled that when her instructor, Thom Smith, offered a class with chalk pastel, she signed up.
“And I fell in love,” she says. “What a medium!”
All of that was five years ago now, and Haessig, who retired in 2010, is still taking classes.
“I see it as a way to do something in my retired life that is a challenge and is creative,” she says, adding she’s found the Columbia Art League to be a “wonderfully secure place” to explore her artistry.
“It’s mostly people my age taking classes,” she explains, “and if my fellow students had experience before, it had been some years since they had practiced art in any way. And unlike art classes at the university, there’s no grading. There’s just learning going on. It’s just me comparing what I did today to what I did before and saying, ‘I didn’t get it yesterday; I get it today.’ ”
Haessig enters her work in the Columbia Art League shows, including the Boone County Art Show, and has won a couple of honorable mentions. She hasn’t submitted to any other shows — yet.
“Maybe I will,” she says, “but right now, where I am comfortable is within the community of the Columbia Art League.”
As for an “artist statement,” or an explanation of why she does the art she does, Haessig doesn’t really have one.
“I don’t know why I do art exactly,” she says. “It is challenging to learn something new, and I like that.
“This is something that brings me joy; it really does,” she adds. “And not just joy, fun. I have fun doing art.”