My Aunt Kate has been a visual artist her entire life. She graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1974 and later became a member of the women’s co-op gallery Artemesia. It was modeled after A.I.R. Gallery (Artists in Residence), the first all-female artists cooperative gallery in the U.S., which provided a “professional and permanent exhibition space for women artists during a time in which the works shown at commercial galleries in New York City were almost exclusively by male artists.” I recommend reading this history of Artemesia on

Last month, my Aunt Kate turned 90 years old. I wrote the following toast for her party and share it here to honor her and recognize how she created a habit of creativity:

A Toast to Aunt Kate

In reflecting on today’s event, my Aunt Kate’s 90th birthday, I remember how every year, without fail, she would create a personalized birthday card for me. It usually includes a photo of me woven into a collage with other photos from her many travels, with a thoughtful note wishing me a festive birthday. Some contained a poem while others featured colorful mythological or historical references. Her customized cards showcase her creativity, attention to detail and dedication to family.

She creates these cards not only for me but for our other family members and friends.

This past fall, as my Aunt Kate was moving out of her house of many years, she asked me to photograph her artwork. So, her four children, my cousins, and I planned a weekend this past October to document her lifetime of work. I served as the photographer. There were many collages, similar to her birthday cards, yet the breadth and variety of styles was impressive: oils, watercolors, multimedia, 3D art and other formats. Over 300 pieces in total!

I am a writer. And something struck me while photographing her lifetime of art: creativity is a habit, something we need to practice day in and day out. Psychologist say that, “Most people overestimate what they can do in a day or a week and they underestimate what they can do in a year, decade or lifetime.” So, when we practice creativity on every birthday and whatever time we dedicate to it, the results manifest in the long-term.

So, with that I want to say thank you Aunt Kate for inspiring us with 90 years of creativity. Let’s raise our glasses and wish Kathryn a happy birthday. Whatever it is you do, keep creating. Keep practicing your craft. And we’ll see you all at Kathryn’s 100th birthday party!!

You can scroll through a selection of her collages here:

And you can see a selection of her paintings here:

Kathryn Kucera Bio

Kucera graduated with an MFA from the School of the Art Institute in 1974 after her four children were almost grown. Her post graduate experience with mixed media often on a fairly large scale has evolved into collage partly because she travels frequently and finds inspiration from the stimuli of unfamiliar surroundings. She finds local materials when she travels and collage enables her to realize fleeting visualizations and concepts and to capture impressions and ideas almost as they occur.

Artist’s Statement

These collages were created over several years not only in my studio but often as I traveled to Europe, Asia, and South America. They visualize my personal responses to varied locations, their geography, climate and cultures, as well as current headlines and the spirit of the times. I hope to elicit ambivalence, tension and fears, the complexity of the accelerated pace of life today. Working with papers available wherever I find myself, I compile these arrangements of digital and paper images proliferating in our times. The ready medium seems suited to the immediate processing of my elusive perceptions, my fleeting impressions, and the ambiguities they imply.

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