One of Key Peninsula’s newest home-based businesses is Embrace Art Enterprises, LLC, the brainchild of its president, Lynelle Scheid-Kearney. She describes her premier product as “a series of sturdy, laminated art learning cards” in a magnet-closed box decorated with a ribbon. The 5-inch by 7-inch cards comprise an art kit that contains full color photographic representations that “span prehistoric to contemporary art.”

Lynelle Scheid-Kearney shows off her new product, which includes 24 art learning cards. Her favorite art piece of the set, the painting titled “Sistine Madonna” by Raphael, is shown here as an enlarged card (used in her trade show display). Photo by Mindi LaRose

“It is a broad brush stroke of everything from cave paintings at Lascaux, France, to pop art,” she said. “It is a condensed, straight-forward set that parents, teachers, caregivers and kids can work with, to see where it leads them — through an art period, through a medium of creativity, or learning more about history through works of art.”

After two years of working on the kits, Scheid-Kearney is ready to market them. Each set of cards contains a short biography of the artist, and the work is showcased with a highlighted summary. A student of art history, she wrote the explanations for each card from an academic viewpoint. Each card has a bonus: a simple art exercise or a discussion of an art technique for a suggested project. The logo, a vividly colored butterfly with a stylized paintbrush body, along with the entire product, has been submitted to the U.S. Copyright Office for protection.

“The beauty of the project is the partnership with a foundation championing children’s human rights,” Scheid-Kearney said. She plans to donate a portion of her net proceeds to the United Nations network organization called To Love Children, which is “devoted to creating sustainable educational opportunities for the girl-child in the developing world,” she said. “To Love Children is a nonprofit that deals with sexually enslaved and trafficked girls who suffer the most horrific circumstances. It is a hard subject that touched me deeply.”

Her business partner, David Kenneth Waldman, a doctoral candidate at Walden University, heads To Love Children. He provided advice, consultation, and enlisted volunteers who designed the graphics on the packaging and developed the Embrace Art Website (www.embraceart.org). Her local advisory board includes her father, Edward Scheid, a retired international sales officer who resides on the Key Peninsula with her mother, Nancy; John Rodenberg with the Small Business Development Center in Tacoma; and Rebekah O’Hara, a Tacoma attorney specializing in intellectual property and policy. Scheid-Kearney’s cousin, Gregg Sibert, the owner of a successful New York City advertising agency, assisted her with the corporate identity.

Each of the art pieces owned by a family estate, such as the Salvador Dali Foundation, Henri Matisse, Roy Lichtenstein and Pablo Picasso, requires a separate license and special permission, and “are not so easy to go about reproducing.” For example, the photographs cannot be cropped in any way, so fitting them onto uniform-sized cards is a challenge. Other artworks are in the public domain, and are less restrictive about reproduction.

Her favorite in the set is the Sistine Madonna by Raphael, an Italian Renaissance artist. She traveled to Florence, Italy, as a young adult and developed a love for Renaissance art. She chose that piece “because faith would have to be a big determining factor in the launch.”  “I had a lot of help, and I said a lot of prayers,” she said.

The beautiful cards are printed in Hong Kong, where “the customer service is outstanding,” she said. “I wanted to print as ‘green’ as possible. But it is very expensive to print on recycled product.” The quality of the printing is very good, and the colors are true, as a match print shows.

The “designed to last” box contains a list of sources consulted, licenses attained, and credits for ideas borrowed from art history authors. She said she spent a lot of time researching and fact-checking for historical accuracy.

Having grown up in the Midwest, Scheid-Kearney tracked spotted owls and worked as an urban planner after college. With her experience in the workplace, her degree in social ecology, which she described as “how we interact with the environment as a society,” and knowledge from her art history classes at the University of California-Irvine, Scheid-Kearney decided she wanted to have a home business. She could be with her two children, Jack, 5, and Juliette, 8, and “supplement their education at home, while creating a profitable company with a humanitarian spirit.”

Initially, a Seattle company told her the idea wasn’t feasible. “I just decided that I wasn’t going to give up, and kept nibbling at writing cards, attaining licensure to reproduce the photographs, and consulting with my advisers,” she said.

The product was launched in June 2007 at the Washington Home School Trade Show and Convention in Puyallup, where it was well-received.

“I had a lot of encouragement. People like the synergy between entrepreneurial and the humanitarian spirit of the company and the Foundation’s work,” she said. Her target markets are the home schools and museums, for now.

Her idea was “born of a love of art history and a desire to help kids… a sense of what is right,” she said. “I wanted to choose pieces that children would respond to. It was tricky.”

The advantages of this art kit are described by Scheid-Kearney as “fundamental to a child’s cultural education: teaching life skills, developing informed perception, articulating a vision, and developing the ability to imagine what might be.”

And what might be is what she is living. “I have learned so much about being an entrepreneur. I wasn’t afraid to ask questions and ask for help,” she said.

Her goals include being more creative, writing future boxed sets, and perhaps enrolling in the University of Washington art history program. Meanwhile, her next event is SOVREN’s (Society of Vintage Racing Enthusiasts) Columbia River Classic Car Race in September, where Embrace Art will sponsor the Formula Ford race. Proceeds from the sponsorship will go toward uncompensated care at Children’s Hospital in Seattle.

Her advice to others who want to start their own business is simple: “It’s good to be patient,” she said.

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