Artist. Yoga teacher. Free spirit. When she arrived from Virginia a little over a year ago, Kelly Falk did not know that Tacoma would so quickly become home.
Kelly paints personality-filled portraits of animals and landscapes. You may have seen her paintings and cards at La Paloma Marketplace this summer. She also teaches unique customized yoga classes at several local spots. With an infectious smile, if you have met Kelly around town, you are likely to remember her.
She moved here with her boyfriend Mark, a pilot who teaches flight classes at Bremerton’s Old Thyme Aviation. Although Kelly grew up on cattle farm on the opposite coast, she has flourished in Tacoma. Kelly lives with epilepsy and does not drive. Coming from a small town, she says the robust Pierce Transit system has been vital for allowing her to get around town independently. For a city its size, she’s been surprised by how welcoming and friendly our city has been. In fact, Tacoma has become the place where Kelly has gotten to see her twin talents blossom.
“The people here have been great…it’s all through talking with people that I have had some amazing opportunities,” she says. She started taking yoga classes at the STAR Center, and this is where she was encouraged to become a certified yoga teacher. It’s also where she first got to exhibit her paintings for others to see. “The staff let me put them up in the hallways. I would get to class early and it was so great to see people noticing them and smiling,” she says.
Kelly had worked traditional jobs in the past, but her epilepsy made it difficult. “I didn’t want to resign myself to feeling ‘disabled,’” Kelly says. “I wanted to get out into the community. I’m grateful for this opportunity to pursue my creative passions, and hopefully share them with others.”
Kelly’s grandmother was a richly artistic spirit, and painted with acrylics as well as doing beautiful calligraphy and script work. In 2011, Kelly took a painting class with her aunt, and channeling her grandmother’s spirit, a passion was born. Since then, Kelly has been largely self-taught, experimenting with new techniques and subject matter to keep growing. As I looked at the art in her home, Kelly showed me her refinement of her skill from an early painting she’d made for Mark, to a sophisticated plane on water with gold reflecting light and, she shyly showed me, a first attempt at painting a person. A recently finished painting of a cow is striking with its dignity and grace. The warmth, color and vibrant energy radiating through everything from the brushstrokes to the perspectives in her work capture the eye and the imagination. She does both smaller works and large-scale canvases.
Kelly currently teaches yoga classes at three locations: Marconi Chiropractic and Wellness (Monday and Friday mornings) and through Metro Parks Tacoma at People’s Community Center in Hilltop, and the STAR Center in South Tacoma (check their websites for current schedules). She also offers private lessons.
Kelly welcomes students of all levels. She encourages each student to “find their flow” that feels good to their body. Her teaching philosophy is to connect the body and breath into a whole, peaceful experience. She keeps a thoughtful, artistic notebook where she plans “customized flows” for each class. She offers modifications so everyone is comfortable. Like her art, her yoga practice radiates from a place of kindness and sincerity.
At age 18, Kelly was a contestant on America’s Next Top Model. You’d never guess it in talking with her because she is so modest and down-to-earth. What resonated most with her about the experience is that, after disclosing her epilepsy on the show, the Anita Kaufmann Foundation reached out to her, and this is how she got started with epilepsy awareness and advocacy.
She never lets her epilepsy stop her. Kelly is happy that the Northwest seems to take a progressive view of epilepsy, and people respond with kindness rather than panic if she has a seizure. She is about calmly acknowledging epilepsy and informing people how to respond to a seizure rather than being fearful or silent. And she is living proof that we can choose, every day, to be fearless and thrive.
Kelly and Mark enjoy getting out and exploring the outdoors of the Northwest as much as possible, with Lake Cushman being a favorite spot. And she loves walking her dog, Olive, daily. She also loves to stay active through sports. In talking with Kelly, you can tell she’s someone who is filled with a genuine enthusiasm for life, and derives happiness from sharing this verve with others.
She currently sells her cards online and creates paintings on commission, which brings her joy. “It’s amazing to me when someone likes my work so much that they want to order something special,” she says. Her hope is to someday have a gallery space to exhibit her work.