There’s nothing like waking up to a snowstorm on April 17 to make you crave color and sunshine. If you are, I have the most perfect person to introduce you to…Libertyville’s Kristi Kohut. Kristi first hit my radar when my close friend Bridget told me that several of the fantastic art pieces she has in her home are from Kristi’s studio.
Art has always been part of Kristi’s life, but it wasn’t until she left her full-time career in advertising that she really found painting again. “After my son was born, I needed an outlet for my creativity,” she says. “I started painting again and I just couldn’t stop.”
That was 2014. Fast forward to today and Kristi, who didn’t take a traditional path into the art world, opened a showroom in downtown Libertyville in 2018, is booked with commissioned pieces through 2021, and has a global network of collectors.
“I’ve been a little bit of an outlier, ” says Kristi. “When I decided I was ready to put my artwork into the world, I didn’t think a traditional art gallery was the way to go.”
So Kristi worked on some collaborations for exclusive pieces with One King’s Lane and Anthropologie. “This was during my starving phase as an artist,” says Kristi with a laugh. “This visibility really helped me get my voice out there. I’m so much more of who I am today because I didn’t go the traditional gallery route.”
Kristi’s work is most defined by her confident use of color. “Color is a unifying theme in everything I do,” she explains. “Different combinations of color can illicit certain feelings. A musician composes a song using notes. As an artist, colors are my notes. I try to evoke certain feelings and energy in all of my pieces.”
“It’s still kind of amazing that they reached out to me,” Kristi says. “Kelly and her team are just as you would expect them to be–warm and kind–and they wanted something happy for their Green Room. We ended up doing a takeover of the space and designed the whole thing: a full-length mural on one of the walls, pillows, poofs, lamps, a rug. It was so great. They then asked me to be a guest on the show and do a behind-the-scenes in how we pulled the Green Room together. I also did an art demo with Kelly on the show. It was awesome.”
Instagram has been one of Kristi’s most valuable marketing tools as her business and art continue to evolve. “Instagram has been unbelievable. It’s such a visual story and brings a whole new audience. It’s not uncommon for people to say that they’ve been been following me and now they’re ready for a piece of my work.”
As deep as Kristi’s artistic roots run, she loves the business side, too.
“I enjoy thinking strategically and changing things when I know they can work better. The first thing I did when I opened my studio was to hire a CFO,” Kristi says, who in addition to owning Kristi Kohut Studio in Libertyville has done pop-up stores in the Hamptons, New York, and Miami. “I knew I couldn’t do everything and I’ve been lucky to find great people to help me.”
Kristi is a true inspiration to women looking to make a career pivot. “It took a long time for me to find the courage to put myself out there,” Kristi says. “There’s a real vulnerability and a fear in doing that. But at some point, the fear of not launching my business was greater than the fear of actually doing it so I had no choice. My advice to women who are thinking about starting their own business is to just do it. You’ll never regret that you tried.”
During these days of uncertainty surrounding Covid-19, Kristi has launched a new charitable collection of poster-like prints, titled the Sunshine Initiative, to help spread some joy. Each print purchased will provide fresh produce boxes to front line hospital and healthcare workers right as they are leaving their shifts through a partnership with the Produce Alliance. It is Kristi’s hope that the collection and partnership with the Produce Alliance will bring color to those who are working tirelessly to keep us safe.
To learn more about Kristi, her work, or to purchase a Sunshine Initiative print, visit kristikohut.studio.