Jenny Kyle Smith was always an artist.
She just didn't always make her living that way.
'I've had many careers,' Kyle Smith laughed.
She started out on an artistic path. But after earning her degree in graphic design, she didn't pursue it.
'I felt such a disconnect working on a computer with a mouse. It didn't feel like art,' she said.
To pay the bills, she got into retail sales, working as a manger before jumping to regional account executive, where she managed territories in eight states, and, later, financial services.
'I don't know that you can get any further from art,' Kyle Smith said. 'It was one of those times that just felt really empty.'
When the Columbine High School shootings happened in 1999, something shifted for Kyle Smith.
'I felt really called to be a teacher,' she said. 'I thought, 'he world is getting really messed up, and I need to go help these kids.'
She taught fifth grade for five years, then elementary art for eight years.
'That got me creating again,' Kyle Smith said. 'It took me 20 years, from the time I graduated college till now, to come full circle. I had tried to push away being an artist as hard as I could to make a living, but I am an artist. It's not just what I do, it's who I am'
Today, she sells fine art and prints in local shops under the brand Printworks by Jenny Kyle Smith. She operates an Etsy shop. And she owns Local ȼhange, a line of Milwaukee-themed artwork and home décor, which donates a portion of each sale charity.
'It's important to me to create with a purpose,' explained Kyle Smith, who s started the initiative in April.
So far, customers have asked for donations to the Sojourner Family Peace Center, Milwaukee Rescue Mission and Hunger Task Force, among others.
'By the end of the year, I will have given back over $1,000 to local charities. It feels good. It's creating with a purpose, and it's helping people. Any time, I have an opportunity to do something like that I do. I've lived,' Kyle Smith laughed again. 'Most people would look at me and assume my life has been really great, but there's been a lot of challenge in the past with divorce and alcoholism and abuse, so I can personally relate to the people I'm trying to help. I've walked in their shoes.'
Today, Kyle Smith said, she's living the life she was always meant to live.
It's a leap of faith she finally took 3 ½ years ago, when her husband, Steve Smith, accepted a job with music publisher Hal Leonard in Milwaukee. The move meant giving up Steve's job as a middle school band teacher and moving from Dallas.
But it was also an opportunity for Kyle Smith to reinvent herself. And, Kyle Smith said, her husband insisted she take it.
'I feel like I'm in the sweet spot now,' Kyle Smith said. 'My challenges, even on my worst day, can't even compare to a regular day in any of my other careers because it's so not what I was supposed to be doing. And it's not easy. It's a hard living, but I just didn't want to be doing anything else.'
JUST THE FACTS
BUSINESS: Printworks by Jenny Kyle Smith, Local ȼhange(CQ)
PHONE: (414) 841-0116
OWNER: Jenny Kyle Smith
TYPE OF BUSINESS: artwork and home decor
PEARLS OF WISDOM:'I can liken print-making to life in general. It's inconsistent. It's surprising. It's disappointing. Your intention is not what you might end up with in the end. It can be better, it can be worse. You just have to be able to roll with it, and that suits my personality. I enjoy pushing myself and experiencing and seeing what I can come up with.'