Her creative balance

Ingrid Cowan Hass finds time to pursue her passion for music and art.
Jan. 12, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Finding time to pursue your love for art and music can be tough, but Ingrid Cowan Hass, artist and professional singer, is always trying to find the perfect balance.

Hass, a former Rutherford County resident, is the featured artist at the Rutherford Visual Artists Guild for the month of January. She currently lives in Maryland with her husband and two children. Her parents, Gaylord and Dagmar Cowan, still live in the county and are heavily involved with the guild.

"The last time I had an art show in Rutherford County was when I graduated from college. It was my parent's idea to join the guild. They are highly creative people and since retirement are very involved with it," Hass said. "They have always supported my interest in the arts and I am very grateful for that. Without them, I wouldn't be where I am today, doing what I love most."

Hass began taking piano lessons when she was 7.

"I really wanted to take piano lessons. My grandparents had a piano and I would sit there and pretend to play. I would give concerts for my grandfather and he was always encouraging," Hass said. "The teacher was reluctant at first. I can even remember sitting there giggling half the time. I wasn't able to focus, but I loved it and wanted to play."

Her next endeavor was learning how to play the violin at age 11.

"My best friend's mother came up to me and told me that a woman had moved down the street who knew how to play instruments. It was actually the same woman that was responsible for the little symphony in Rutherford County, which I was the concert master of almost 25 years ago," Hass said. "When she moved in, she said that if she could get enough students she would start a little group lesson. So it wasn't my idea to learn the violin, but I did it and we had a great time."

After graduating from R-S Central High School, Hass attended Smith College in Massachusetts where she majored in studio art and minored in music.

"In college I was only allowed to play one instrument but I actually got permission to play two. So I took violin and voice and it about killed me. It was just too much practicing at that level," Hass said. "I had experience performing with the Rutherford County Arts Council. I am really indebted to Matthew McEnnerney because he gave me tons of really good roles. Somehow the music and performing combined into singing."

Hass, who continued her education by getting her masters in opera performance at the North Carolina School of the Arts, says she loves communicating with people through her singing.

"With singing, I really loved that there was a text involved. When you sing, even if it is an art song or poetry set to music, it is still like a mini-show. It is a poem that you are trying to bring to life," Hass said. "It is not just about playing a phrase, it has a text which creates a whole other dimension that really appealed to me. I like giving to people in that way. I like communicating."

While pursuing her singing career, Hass put her art on the back-burner. But, she found her inspiration for painting and drawing again when she met her mentor Judi Betts while singing at the Fairbanks Music and Art Festival in Alaska.

"There was an opening concert and as I sat down in the auditorium, the woman beside me asked me if she could put her paints down in the chair next to me. We clicked immediately and I watched as she sketched and even did watercolor during the performance. That was the beginning of a wonderful friendship with Judi," Hass said. "She travels all over the world and does art workshops. Before I had kids, I was finally able to go back up to Alaska and take a two week class with her. That is when I fell in love with Judi. She helped me get out of the box of the way I thought about things and encouraged me to just do it. She was always the one who would tell me that there was no reason I could not draw, paint and sing at the same time. I am very indebted to her and love her."

Hass concentrates much of her time on paintings and block prints from sketches she makes onsite, whether it be of musicians, still lifes or landscapes.

"In general, in my painting or my singing, I want to find a mood for the subject or piece. With voice, people may talk of coloring your sound, for example. With my visual art, I want to create a sounds, or perhaps a rhythm," Hass said. "Color speaks to something deep within us, so that is often the vehicle I use. I am trying to paint what you can't capture with a camera, something that you can perceive, but that is invisible. I like to say I'm trying to find the subject's song."

Many of her pieces are block prints.

"I started doing the block prints because I was asked to teach a class on it and I didn't know how to do it. So I tried it and just loved it," Hass said. "Traditionally for this art, you use black and put white paper on it. But I paint my paper first with bright, exciting water colors. If my sketch is of a musical group, I try to pick colors that reflect them."

When she is not working on her art, Hass is showing off her singing ability in the Washington D.C. area.

"Washington D.C. has a million things going on. I haven't been doing much opera, except with some smaller companies because of the evening rehearsals. I don't want my kids to never see me," Hass said. "I will get a gig in a concert venue where I have a solo or I am one of four soloists. There are about 500 choruses in this city alone. They will call me and say that they need me to do a part, usually months in advance. I will go to my pianist and learn it, go to one rehearsal and then perform. They pay me for the rehearsal and the performance."

She says that her biggest struggle is trying to find time for all of her passions and be a mother.

"It is a struggle finding time to do everything, especially as a mother. I wish I could close my door and paint for a week but I can't. This biggest challenge is trying to juggle it all," Hass said.

Her latest project is creating a puppet show for students that brings her performing and singing together. She is also hoping to start selling cards with images of her art work at the Kennedy Center.

"Doing the puppet show will combine my art and singing. It is fun and it is going to be a new adventure that my husband and I are trying to do part time. We would like to tour around the schools in this area and perform it," Hass said,

Hass says she is honored that her art is featured in the guild this month.

"I am really tickled to be in my home town. My whole experience in Rutherfordton was very supportive," Hass said. "There are so many people there that helped me get where I am. I am very happy to show them what I have done with it."