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Meet Tracy Troutman, the Quinlan's new summer art camp director
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Tracy Troutman is the Quinlan Visual Arts Center's summer art camp director. (Photo courtesy Quinlan Visual Arts Center)

Tracy Troutman may be retired from the classroom, but she’s hardly finished inspiring young artists.

While the veteran art educator closed the book on her teaching career last May with more than 20 years of experience behind her, roughly 10 of which were gained teaching pre-K in private schools in Atlanta and Gainesville and 14 at Fair Street International Academy, a new chapter sits ready to mold she steps to the helm of summer art camp at the Quinlan Visual Arts Center.

Troutman assumes the position following the departure of longtime art camp director Fox Gradin.

An alumna of Brenau University’s early childhood education program and a certified art educator, Troutman dabbles in a bit of everything when it comes to the creative process, from painting and muraling to sewing and costume design. 

For Troutman, art is as intrinsic to her makeup as her own DNA. She descends from a line of creatives, her mother a watercolorist and seamstress; her grandmother a painter, seamstress and floral designer; her father and grandfather both woodworkers; and her great grandmother a charcoal artist whose drawings now adorn Troutman’s dining room walls.

Troutman has incorporated some of the same mediums they taught her — like sewing, which her mother taught her to do when she owned a fabric shop on Hilton Head Island in the ‘80s — into the summer art camp curriculum. What excites her most, however, may not be the techniques she imparts to emerging artists, but what she’ll learn from them along the way.

“The most awesome thing is what they teach me. I love being able to support them if they have a creative idea and push them to keep going with that idea,” she said. 

“I hope my art class is pressure-free,” she continued. “They work hard with their academics, and it’s a place where they can sort of let their hair down, be themselves, maybe be a little bit more emotional.”

Speaking of hair, campers may notice Troutman’s variegated locks — a trademark passed on by her friend and mentor, Rosemary Wood Dodd, who died earlier this year. According to Troutman, Dodd decided during the pandemic that she was passing her rainbow hair on to her, taking Troutman to her hair colorist as soon as the salons reopened.

“She was a good influence on me. I like a process way more than I like trying to hone (becoming) a really good oil painter or a really good watercolorist. I mean, yes, I want to make something that I feel like is appealing, but if I’m satisfied with it, then I’m ready to move on to the next process, and she was very encouraging of that.”

It’s that same spirit of encouragement Troutman hopes to foster within the Quinlan’s walls this summer. In addition to dabbling in standard mediums, Troutman plans to introduce campers to a lineup of musicians, dancers, bakers and chefs, hair stylists and colorists, makeup artists, florists, photographers, performers, event planners, designers, architects, woodworkers and nail techs to expose her students to the array of possibilities available to them as working artists.

“The word ‘artist’ is way broader than drawing a picture,” she said. “Sometime in elementary school, I don’t know exactly when it happens — I think it’s because of peer pressure — but they decide you’re a good artist or you’re not a good artist if you can draw or if you can’t draw. It’s nice if you can draw, but it doesn’t mean you’re not an artist (if you can’t). Everybody’s an artist.”

According to Nairika Cornett, executive director of the Quinlan, the energy and compassion Troutman brings to the table “is compelling no matter what age you are.”

“She is so passionate about kids — that is her greatest strength,” Cornett said. “She wants every child who comes (to art camp) to feel included, to feel empowered. To her, it’s about sparking creativity and belonging.”

For her incoming campers, Troutman has one instruction: “Get ready to get messy.”

Additional information on Troutman and art camp sessions can be found at