By Gina Malone
Raphaella Vaisseau has worked hard at being a full-time artist since 1997, and, along with necessary relocations, there have been some interruptions and hurdles along the way, among them the sudden death of her brother, loss of gallery space, the 2008 recession and time spent caring for elderly parents. She describes herself as an “optimistic person by choice,” a mindset especially helpful in these trying times.
Vaisseau moved to Asheville in 2018, and in January of this year opened Heartful Art in the River Arts District. She held her Grand Opening on February 29, and, two weeks later, had to close with COVID-19 concerns. It was, she says, “two glorious months.” In the last days before closing, when customers came into her new space and expressed concern, she shared her history with them and told them she would make it through this challenge as well.
It was her kindergarten teacher in Minnesota in 1953 who told her that she was an artist and let her paint the mural on display in the background of the class picture. “My parents supported my talent, but said that I would have to be practical and choose a career that made money,” Vaisseau says. Taking that advice, she worked as a dental hygienist and then as a secretary. Meanwhile, she says, “I started painting my layered watercolor fine art just for myself in 1981.” Ten years later, she met an artist who let her volunteer at shows to learn the ropes of selling art and making money at it. “The starving artist myth was instantly broken,” Vaisseau says. By the end of that summer as an onlooker, she had started her own company, selling hand-painted greeting cards to stores in Los Angeles.
Working as a full-time artist took her to Ashland, OR; Sausalito, CA; and Venice, FL—all places that brought her joy. When it came time to leave Miami after her parents died, the River Arts District, in particular, drew her to Asheville. “Community is important to me,” she says, “and I’ve never experienced a greater sense of community in art than I have in Asheville, even in the short time I’ve lived here.”
While she fills out assistance applications to keep her business going and signs up for an online class that was already in the works before the pandemic hit so close to home, she is remaining true to Heartful Art’s mission of empowerment. “All of my art is painted with the intention of expressing my heart and uplifting others with color, design and also with words.” Her words for this time of worldwide crisis besides wishing everyone well are these:
“We don’t know the future, but I’m holding the vision of the world creating new and wonderful ways for everyone to win.”
To learn more about her work or to shop online, visit HeartfulArt.com.