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Meet Joan Green of Green Art Labs

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joan Green.

Joan, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I had a major career change after 10 years in marketing. I was feeling unfulfilled and decided to take some time off to find myself. Daily, I would drive by this preschool in downtown Seattle, which looked like a really fun place to be, with art in the windows and families hanging around. They hired me on the spot and I began my journey with children!

My naiveté helped me in this new career. One day the teachers were out on a rainy walk with the children. It was my job to set up an activity for the children upon their return. I hurriedly went to the supply closet and selected a palette of loose parts and materials. I had no idea what the kids would do with these things, but it seemed liked a fun assortment – tubes, corks, twist ties, paper, paint, etc. The kids came in and ran to the table with pure excitement. They spent an hour creating with these everyday materials and the teachers were amazed at how engaged they were. That was a pivotal day for me, and it still informs the way that I work with children.

Since then, I’ve studied and visited Reggio Emilia, Italy – a respectful and progressive way of being with children.

My artistry comes through in the way I set up art experiences for people. Selecting and arranging open-ended reusable materials is pure joy for me. It’s a very creative process. The colors, textures, materials, forms, shapes in these found objects that I select is the way that I create. Then being present while people create is so enlightening for me.

I rarely tell people what to make. I may offer one idea, but in general my classes are all about having the time and space to create freely.

Kids and adults are so busy and scheduled that it’s important to have this freedom I offer in Green Art Labs classes.

Ever present in my environmental art and in my classes, is a deep connection to the earth, it’s resources and sustainability. Whether I’m just modeling conscious behavior by picking up a piece of trash, or mentoring Algalita student groups on plastic ocean pollution – nature and the environment is central to my work and my lifestyle.

I’m currently an artist in resident with the Climate Science Alliance whose Climate Kids program teaches children about climate change. I was also an artist in resident at Cabrillo National Monument where I contemplated “the environmental edge” that we’re balancing on as I collected plastic ocean pollution at the park and made it visible through art making.

I’m truly passionate about plastic ocean pollution. Simple suggestions and modeling are so powerful for children. They’re looking to us to lead the way. My students see me collecting all of these reusable materials which helps the earth and creative. Then they start collecting reusable materials for art, influencing the purchasing habits at home, carrying reusable water bottles, and picking up trash to help the planet. Some of my students have been making signs in the neighborhood reminding people to respect the trees, the bees, the animals. They really care.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Green Art Labs has been steadily growing for the last 4 years. The smoothest parts have been my environmental creative work with the community. My passion, relationships with families, creating, ideas, materials, come easy.

The struggles have been mostly in finding time to do all the back-end stuff like marketing, scheduling, accounting, etc. Those aren’t my favorite things. But, I’m getting better at it. I’ve grown a lot as a business owner through the process.

Green Art Labs – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Green Art Labs connects people to their creativity through reusable materials. We offer art making classes, camps and workshops for children and adults. Most of our classes are in North Park at Expressive Arts at 32nd & Thorn, as well as after school classes in San Diego schools.

Students create with a colorful palette of reusable materials like tubes, corks, fabric, plastics, boxes, etc. People have the time and space to invent, engineer, design, and make things such as games, cars, simple machines, dioramas, robots, animals, sculptures, etc. STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) concepts come through as children work through their projects in creative thinking, problem solving, collaborating and presenting their work.

We’re known for our environmental focus and empowering people to reuse materials for art while they help the planet. We also are unique in focusing on the process of art making as opposed to technique. We give our students the time and space to create freely. While we usually offer students a couple ideas, they are free to create from their heart.

We are most proud of our long-term relationships with families and our community. We have cherished partnerships with schools and organizations such as Algalita, and the Climate Science Alliance – South Coast, and Arts for Learning.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Honestly, it’s when a child brings me a piece of trash that he or she has picked up, and says, “we can use this for art.”

When they start noticing and taking action, then my work is done because I know that they will care enough about our planet to do something about it.


  • Creative Families Classes (parent/child ages 2-5): $10-$25
  • Creative Kids Classes (ages 5-12): $14-$25
  • Green Art Labs Camps (ages 5-12): $60 per day

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Yaro Trujillo
Yaro Jane Photography

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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