Anne Kirkwood Trail has spent much of her 71 years blazing a trail, leaving behind a wake of imaginative markers: paintings, sculptures and perhaps hundreds of creative thinkers whom she has touched through her teaching.
Trail was exposed to art early. Her mother, father, grandmothers, aunts, cousins, brother and sister all found solace in creating in one medium or another. “When I was 2, I announced to my mother that I was going to be an artist,” she said, “By the sixth grade, I was known as an art fanatic; my drawings always adorned the hallway walls. In the ninth grade, I received an art pin as recognition. I still have it somewhere.”
Trail went on to receive a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Idaho with a minor in secondary education and English. She met her husband at UI, and their 50th anniversary is in February. Forty-five years ago they bought a two-bedroom bungalow on the South Hill. Later, Trail earned a teaching certificate from Gonzaga University.
Her work experience includes serving as an art director and teacher at the YMCA, as an art teacher at St. Patrick’s School and a teacher for Spokane Public Schools.
“Art is important in education because many kids learn differently,” she said. “We need to let the students find their own way of learning and listen to them.”
One boy she worked with was two years behind his second-grade peers, but after she learned of his desire to be a clown or a mime, something as simple as a costume helped him excel.
She also taught summer workshops in oil painting at Camp Lutherhaven on Lake Coeur d’Alene, where she would spend her evenings painting outdoors, capturing the beauty of the scenery around her.
Looking at Trail’s works, a viewer can almost step into them, sit in the lush landscape or carry on a conversation with the subjects. Her brush strokes are thick and her color choices soothing.
Trail set her brushes down for a more tactile medium after a chance meeting 14 years ago with local sculptor Sister Paula Mary Turnbull. Since then, Trail has molded dozens of sculptures, busts and nude figures in high-fired clay finished off with various media including spray paint, shoe polish and oil paint mixed with a thinning agent.
You might expect to see Trail’s pieces in galleries or museums, but though she has sold some work she rarely displays it. Instead, her home (now much larger than the two-bedroom bungalow) is adorned with her work, from paintings on the walls to sculptures displayed on built-ins, surfaces, or in the gardens. A large, detached art studio filled with racks of paintings, shelves of educational books and other tools of her trade also sits on the property.
Four years ago, Trail had a stroke, and though she says her brain isn’t functioning as well as it used to, it is not noticeable. She still makes art. “It brings peace to my life,” she said.