Story by Danielle Tobar | Jun 26, 2017
Photography by Keith Borgmeyer

Faye Zumwalt beautifies Jefferson City through constant creation and variation.


“I like just about any kind of art I’ve done,” Faye Zumwalt says. She started acting on her like (or love) of art at a young age, drawing pictures from the backs of magazines advertising art courses. A few years and plenty of art later, she longed to study her craft more seriously at MU.

Cue the concerned parents. Zumwalt’s father was less than thrilled at the seemingly impractical idea of her turning her passion into a career path. She says, “He told me if I ever needed to support myself, art was probably not going to be the right career choice.” She ended up heeding her father’s advice, taking a job in state government. Thankfully, that move was a serendipitous one. It was there that she met a co-worker and friend who introduced her to oil painting.

Refining her craft through regular classes was just the start. Soon, Zumwalt was teaching her own classes. For years, she taught “follow the leader” painting classes in the style of Dorothy Dent, a Missouri artist who specializes in country landscapes — barns, farms, and other rural scenes. It wasn’t until later in her art career, when Zumwalt joined The Jefferson City Art Club, that she ventured into developing original work.


Now, Zumwalt is considered a staple of the Jefferson City art community. From her time creating art on the side while working for the state to her more dedicated time post-retirement, Zumwalt has continuously focused on education. And whether it’s trying her hand at pottery or taking drawing classes, Zumwalt sees no reason to get comfortable with one form or specialty. Although she still loves acrylic, oil, and watercolor, she’s experimented with jewelry making and creating Mardi Gras masks. Seven years into retirement, Zumwalt is spending her time socializing and creating with members of both The Jefferson City Art Club (which is always accepting new members) and Artists Helping Artists, a lesser-known local organization that’s especially important for retirees. Artists Helping Artists combines the best parts of a social club and an art club, keeping members engaged and active around the community.

The combined love of art and education doesn’t stop with Zumwalt herself. Hand-pick a few friends to come along and Zumwalt will share her love in a small class setting featuring drawing, color theory, or silk painting. For artists and non-artists alike, she recommends: “study from as many different artists and different styles as you possibly can. Everybody has something different to offer. You never know what you’re going to learn from the next person.”

A few things have changed about the Jefferson City art scene since Zumwalt became an integral part of it. She and other artists used to long for a full-time gallery space while settling for weekend exhibitions in local bank lobbies. In 2009, the dream came to fruition when Capital Arts opened. Zumwalt is just one of the countless artists who has exhibited at the space since its opening. She says, “I’m thrilled to have something like that around here.” Capital Arts not only sponsors their own yearly gallery crawl, but also helps support the downtown event, Arts Stroll.

Although she’s experimented with a great deal of media during her career, you could say Zumwalt’s forte is silk painting. In contrast to traditional canvas, silk absorbs paint rather quickly, so controlling the medium is no easy task. Zumwalt uses a resist, a solution used in conjunction with paint, to corral colors into shapes like petals or lines, and she even uses a hairdryer to push the paint and water to dilute it. Because the medium is rather unforgiving, silk painting has pushed Zumwalt to be completely deliberate with every stroke and be creative with any mishaps that occur along the way. A newfound technique — splatter painting — came to Zumwalt after an accidental paint drip onto the silk. 

Zumwalt only focuses these days on those things she loves: scarves, pillows, wall hangings, greeting cards, etc. The creative gene doesn’t allow for much of a break, though. When Zumwalt isn’t working on her wearable art or more traditional paintings, she’s working on something else. She jokes about one upcoming project, repainting faded yard art, “When you have these art skills, you just take care of a lot of those things yourself.”

Zumwalt’s work can be found at Capital Arts on Missouri Boulevard and in Reno, Nevada, where she frequently visits her son.