Scranton woman finds niche by adding her voice to arts landscape – Scranton Times

Valerie Kiser has always been a restless spirit, which works for her as a talented artist and designer always seeking the next best thing.

These days, however, the Hill Section resident is happy to be planting her roots in the Electric City.

Originally from Indiana, Ms. Kiser moved to the area more than 20 years ago after her father’s job transfer. She graduated from Abington Heights High School and then pursued a bachelor of fine arts degree in fibers from Savannah College of Art Design.

Disappointment set in

Ms. Kiser hung around the South for a couple years after receiving her undergraduate degree, then returned to Northeast Pennsylvania in 2002. After experiencing a sort of cultural awakening outside of the region, she was disappointed with the state of things when she came home.

“I definitely didn’t want to stay here,” she said on a recent afternoon in her home studio office. “There was nothing really happening with the art scene or the downtown, even the food (around here).”

She kept her creativity alive by continuing work on her craft, and started her business, Valerie Kiser Design, in 2010, which makes sustainable apparel, home decor and accessories.

“I had been making things and selling them since graduation,” Ms. Kiser said. “I tried jewelry, did fine art shows locally and around the country, but home decor and clothing have been my mainstay.”

Working from home, Ms. Kiser sells her creations online or in local retail shops, and is part of ScrantonMade, the local online artists market.

To find the culture she craved, however, Ms. Kiser and her husband, David Bosley, traveled extensively and found themselves in a constant state of longing to relocate to each place they visited. Everywhere else, it seemed, had what they felt was lacking in NEPA.

Her “Aha! moment,” as she called it, hit after they began attending local events, particularly the “After Dark” programs at the Everhart Museum.

“I never felt connected to anything else in the area until those events,” Ms. Kiser explained. “But I wanted to be involved in something I could be proud of and get behind.”

She realized then that it was up to her to stop wishing for the types of events she wanted to be part of, and to start making them happen.

Along with her husband, she approached Mike Muller, who had been one of the organizers for the Everhart events, and Ruth Koelewyn with an idea to showcase the “bones” of Scranton by initiating interactive, improvisational installations at a series of venues throughout the city.

Pop Up Studio started

Thus began the Pop Up Studio, which the four friends co-founded and co-coordinate, and is held every four to six weeks with changing themes and activities.

“(There are) so many vacant spaces, and we wanted to bring people that might not usually go to art shows to events,” Ms. Kiser said. “There’s no stuff for sale on the walls, it’s just things for people to play with.”

The theory is that by bringing groups into the spaces and providing them with a concept, artistic materials and later a stage or display area, art becomes a community effort that celebrates local talent, ingenuity and imagination in historic places.

The Pop Up Studio events have been growing with each successive one, and have caught the eye of United Neighborhood Centers, which recently contracted the group to provide workshops for kids ages 12 to 18 years from Lackawanna County. Ms. Kiser and the others will lead two 10-week sessions, and at the end of the program, plan to have the youths take part in a First Friday Art Walk.

The collaborative project has given much more to Ms. Kiser than the other way around, she insists.

“We don’t have time to second-guess Scranton ever, ever, ever,” she said. “We connect to local people we would never meet otherwise.

“I think we’re really fortunate to live here,” Ms. Kiser added.

Contact the writer: [email protected], @pwildingTT on Twitter

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Meet Valerie Kiser

At home: Lives in Hill Section of Scranton with her husband, David Bosley; daughter of Stephen and Patricia Kiser

At work: Owner of and designer for Valerie Kiser Design, specializing in sustainable apparel, home decor, accessories and events; adjunct professor of fibers and related media at Marywood University; co-founder and co-coordinator of Pop Up Studio

Inspiration: Other creative people and designers; “cool colors, shapes and textures in nature”; interior design magazines; fashion.

Diversions: Engaging in activities like walking, yoga, working out and playing social sports like dodgeball; attending First Friday Art Walks.

Aversions: “Talking about something, and never doing it.”

Quote: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Mohandas Gandhi

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