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McKinney artist, teacher brings new art form to Jonesborough

Kay Grogg is a teacher and local artist.


Kay Grogg is a veteran teacher, having spent more than 30 years in the Washington County school system, serving first at Asbury Elementary, and then at David Crockett High School, where she has taught art and photography since 1992.

Last year, she joined the faculty of the McKinney Center as a teacher in a new form of art known as “Zentangle.”

Grogg, who earned her Master of Arts in Education from Tusculum College, took a master class and earned a certification in the Zentangle method during a five-day intensive in New England, with the founders of the form, along with 109 other teachers from across the world. A large group of teachers from Taiwan attended, in order to learn the method, so they could use it with their autistic students as a way to help them create and focus, and experience the victory of completing a piece of art.

“Zentangle is an easy to learn method of creating beautiful images, using repeated patterns. In addition to designing a lovely piece of art, the method increases focus and creativity, while reducing stress and anxiety.” Grogg said of the form. “I use it in my classes at school, and the effect it has on the students is incredible. It boosts their confidence, because everyone, whether they consider themselves an artist or not, can do it.”

Grogg also mentions the calming effect that Zentangle has on her students. “It has a sort of Zen-like quality, it is very relaxing.”

In describing how it works, she said it is a sort of metaphor for life. “You start with a pencil with no erases, just like in life you can’t go back and fix mistakes, but you can adapt, and make different choices. The teachers in this method say there are no mistakes. You just go in a new direction.” In helping students discover new directions after a perceived mistake, she helps them discover that they can continue to work on and develop the piece, without going back, and end up with a small masterpiece that incorporates the mistake into a new design, based on that “new direction.”

She says many of her students, both adult and teenagers, use it to relax and meditate and describes the ease of the form as one stroke, one line at a time.

In her one-day workshop at the McKinney Center, Grogg starts students with a 3 ½-inch square tile. They do a series of these tiles, and at the end of the class, put them together like a mosaic.

She says the biggest take away is that anybody can do this. A person does not have to be an artist to do it. But for those who are artists, she says that they report to her that doing Zentangle helps them to expand their creativity.

“I think it will benefit somebody who wants to do some kind of art but doesn’t feel artistic. It gives them a lot of confidence because they leave with something beautiful, of their own creation. “

She described a student in a class last month. He told her he could not draw, and couldn’t even make stick figures look good. At the end of the class, he was amazed and said, “Wow! I can do this! Look what I did!”

Grogg is the only teacher in the region who is certified to teach Zentangle.

“One of the things I am trying to do, both at David Crockett and at the McKinney Center, is to bring an awareness of this art form and drawing method to this area. Most people do not know about it. They may go to a craft store and see Zentangle supplies, but don’t have the knowledge of how to do it.”

Kay Grogg will be teaching the Zentangle method at the McKinney Center this spring, as part of Jonesborough’s Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts.

To register for this new and fascinating art form, download the spring catalog at or contact McKinney Center director Theresa Hammons at [email protected], or call (423) 753-0562