One meeting with Saima Yousuf and you will see how the arts can encompass many disciplines. She can paint, make music, dance, teach, write and do professional make up. She and her husband operate the Heart of Art Studio on Nottingham Way in Mercerville. Saima has a lot of energy and is very colorful just like her paintings.
Your art has a musical, spiritual influence. Why?
I have an appreciation for a wide spectrum of music genres, and went on to marry a music producer. I am deeply influenced by sounds as I paint. Vibrations affect us energetically, so I surround myself with music that takes me to a fertile, empty space. I gravitate towards melodies without words, in which I become one with the music, and one with the paint brush.
What should we know about your latest Sufi series?
My current series focuses on the poet Rumi’s Whirling Dance, which is an active meditation practiced by the Mevlevi Sufis of Turkey. By synching to music and emptying the mind of all thoughts, the whirling dervishes turn round and round, and paradoxically reach a silent space of stillness. The dance represents our shared suffering, and the transformative power of acceptance and love.
Art is just a part of your teachings. What else do you focus on?
I named our studio space “The Heart of Art” because all creative potential stems from the heart. At the heart of us all, we are spiritual beings having a human experience. At our studio, we also want to offer members of our community other options to holistic healing and finding joy within. The focus is always on our true nature, whether through yoga, ecstatic dance, self-inquiry workshops, or weekly book clubs devoted to spiritual enlightenment.
Tell us about your school. Who is it geared toward?
Well, there are different aspects of The Heart of Art. The after school art classes and summer camps (a mix of crafts, clay sculpture, drawing and painting) are geared towards children 6-17 who would like enrichment in their artistic interests. The adult painting classes are geared towards people who would like to have help on technique, and style development. And of course, we can cater all of the aforementioned classes/events to private parties and individuals.
What fight/struggle do you have regarding your art?
Getting “in the zone” for painting can be a struggle while juggling marketing of the studio events, art school, and commission work. Plus general management of the studio (replenishing supplies, organization, running classes, budgeting). Since I am multitasking daily, and also am involved in many projects at a time, focus can be a problem. Thank heavens for my hubby, Yousuf, who is my essential studio partner!
What artistic needs do you think Hamilton has?
Hamilton needs dedicated spaces, networking opportunities for artists, and events, which are marketed to the public, to foster an appreciation for the arts. All kinds of art—poetry slams, visual art exhibitions, local musical talent, etc. It would be awesome to have an art center where Hamilton artists could exhibit/perform on a regular basis, and the public could view and/or purchase local art.
Is this area supportive of the arts?
It’s beginning to be. I’m happy that a Hamilton Arts Commission has formed so that local artists can network, exhibit art, and hold events, which will be beneficial to the community as a whole.
What is on the horizon? What are you looking forward to?
Recently, I am trying to see a silver lining, wondering how my art studio can survive after being closed for months due to quarantine. I am looking forward to going within, to find inspiration and guidance as to how I, as an artist, can reflect what the world is going through? How we are all processing this, and what irrevocable changes will we be making to our lives as a result? What truly matters? I feel called to creating a large piece to incorporate all these experiences.