Paintings provide fuel for his soul

Barry Scanlan with a self-portrait.

By Ellen Perrault

As the Anoka-Hennepin School District prevention coordinator, Barry Scanlan’s days are filled with either working to avert tragedy or helping students and staff when a crisis occurs. As a result of this work he finds he puts a lot of stress on himself. The largest school district in the state, Anoka-Hennepin is located northwest of the Twin Cities.

But Scanlan, of Milaca, has found a way to help him deal with this stress, although it came in a roundabout way. In September 2011 a friend left some acrylic paints at his home in Milaca. Since he had a canvas lying around, Scanlan thought he’d give painting a try and did a portrait of former President John F. Kennedy.

Now with about 80 pieces of completed art, Scanlan hasn’t looked back.

“I think about painting every day, everywhere I am,” Scanlan said. “And if I don’t paint every day, it gnaws at me and I start thinking, ‘why aren’t I painting?’”

While painting is new to Scanlan, he is no stranger to the world of art. Growing up, Scanlan’s mother drew and painted. Scanlan still has some of her work. When Scanlan’s mother was a teenager during the Depression, she would create sketches of movie and baseball stars. She would mail the sketches to the stars and ask them to autograph them and mail them back to her. Many did. Scanlan has 24 of the signed sketches framed hanging in his home. In 1939, Scanlan’s mother was offered a scholarship to an art school; she turned it down because going to art school was not what women did.

“I think she regretted it her whole life,” Scanlan said. “I think she would have made a great beatnik or bohemian, she was just that kind of person.”

For the full story, see the Thursday, Aug. 16 print edition of the Times.