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Shawnee Mission Faces: Steve Hess, garden studio artist and high school mentor

A maker by trade and teacher at heart, Steve Hess mentors Shawnee Mission high schoolers on the basics of good business practices and the importance of crafting and offering top-notch products and services. He hires them to help him run his business, From the Summer’s Garden, a garden studio and haven for creatives and gardeners. He sells his own artwork year 'round by appointment but his studio is converted into a unique retail shopping space twice a year. First in May, for the coming garden season and then in November, celebrating the holiday season. The students help Steve and his guest artists run the shop and market their handmade products. 

Hess has two art degrees in both art education and printmaking and drawing. He teaches at Conception Seminary College in Conception, Missouri, and lives in Overland Park with his wife, Laurie Hess. They have two adult children, both creatives: A son in digital design in Brooklyn, New York, and a daughter doing project management for Burns & McDonnell.

"We have four high school kids who work at FTSG. At first they were only art students, but now I get kids from all walks of life. It’s an absolute joy to work with them.

They’re amazing because they want to work. Not many high school kids want to work anymore. This is often their first job and they need to be taught a work ethic. The kids learn quickly and develop a sense of responsibility. They also learn empathy and how to effectively work with customers. They start to gain a broader viewpoint of life and less  of a “me”  focus and more “others,” which is really wonderful to experience. Our customers appreciate it when the kids pay attention to them.

But the real plus is what they bring  to From the Summer's Garden when they walk in the door. This generation was born with a phone in their hand,  and have an inherent confidence for making creative videos for social media or for our website and emails. They shoot, they perform and they edit.  I provide the conceptual ideas, the writing and direction. They’re involved in sports,  can play instruments , can do math and science... on top of that, they have the joy of being creative. I  am fortunate they want to work- they hustle and  work hard. 

I design  and make the models. Then, I teach them how to make molds, cast concrete , and hypertufa, how to paint and how to assemble items.   

The problem with them is that they grow up so quickly and they’re off to college, so we have to keep finding replacements. The kids themselves are the best recruiters because they know what I expect of them-they  do a beautiful job!