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Education on the go: North Iowa woman brings art to the masses

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Art education in a box on-line business

Doy Gilbert, former elementary art instructor, boxes up her complete art kits,, at the Nora Springs shop she shares with her mother, JoAnn Kaasa. 

Former art instructor-turned-entrepreneur Doy Gilbert of Mason City is taking her classroom into the homes of home-schoolers and beginning art enthusiasts around the globe.

“I was an art educator and I retired and I just couldn’t walk away. I have to teach art,” said Gilbert, who taught in Jefferson and Harding elementary schools in Mason City for 32 years. “Basically, this is the curriculum I taught.”

She has constructed art kits, complete with educational instruction, available for online purchase.

Gilbert’s love of art definitely came from her mother, JoAnn Kaasa, who specializes in hand-crafted seasonal décor at her Humble Beginnings shop in Nora Springs. “Mom did painting and drawing when I was real little, and I was painting and drawing with her,” Gilbert said. “That was always my thing. I was always creative.”

After years of teaching she came up with the idea of creating art kits for substitute teachers, “because it is miserable for teachers to come up with plans when they have to suddenly be gone from work,” Gilbert said. So she signed up for Venture School, an entrepreneurial training program at the Pappajohn Center on the North Iowa Area Community College campus.

Her Venture School mentors soon told her she was thinking too small. She needed to market her art instruction kits to parents of home-school families. Gibert found families to interview in Arkansas, Mexico City, Australia, and Germany.

“I talked to home-school moms all over the world,” Gilbert said. “They all said the same thing: ‘I would love to teach art, but I don’t have time to get it ready.’ They gave me such good information.”

Gilbert started putting her kits together and rented a small space in Bergo’s mini mall. “That’s what got me going. Then Mom started thinking about wanting to reopen her store,” Gilbert said. The idea of sharing space and helping each other out made sense. “I don’t think this kind of thing (seasonal wreaths at Humble Beginnings) will sell all year long, but I have a business that hopefully will keep us going,” she said.

Her website,, offers 11 different packs, each with 12 art projects for three different ages and skill levels.

“When they order they get a packet that has all their materials, and QR codes with video tutorials,” Gilbert said. The tutorials walk a parent and student through a project while they are also learning art vocabulary and elements of design “so they get the whole art educational experience.”

She wanted to make teaching art as easy as possible for home-school parents so everything they need is in the box. “This is a semester’s worth of work for me with the kiddos in school. It’s all ”Doy DIY” from 32 years of teaching kids art and loving it,” Gilbert said.

Mary Loden covers city and county government for the Globe Gazette. You can reach her by emailing


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