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Rising Stars: Meet Shawna Peña-Downing

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shawna Peña-Downing.

Hi Shawna, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I’ve been surrounded by art since the age of 6.

Growing up in a small town I was fortunate to have the opportunity to explore and discover my love for art and creating art. As I grew up and experienced different forms, styles, and techniques, my passions became pretty clear. The theater was the beginning of my artistic journey. Theatre, which encompassed dance and music, and visual arts consumed most of my curiosity. I began to appreciate all art more and more.

That curiosity thrived in many ways, opportunities, and experiences I had as a young artist. It helped me decide what to be involved in high school, what to study in college, shape my career choices, and bridge my worlds of creating. Getting to where I am today wasn’t easy yet my need for lifelong learning, that curiosity, and continuous passion allow me to perform and create quality experiences that have the ability to inspire, entertain, and educate.

I started experimenting with acrylic pours in 2018 after watching a video online. I’ve never been good with a paintbrush but enjoyed painting. I’ve always been someone who sees something interesting and says “I can do that.” So I began to learn and experiment with this technique and quickly became interested in what more I could do.

I started to invest time, materials, and money and before I knew it, people started asking me to create things for them.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Generally, I don’t think anything we do in life is smooth.

Sometimes struggles are a way of growth and improvement and I’ve had my fair share and probably will continue to. There is definitely a learning curve when you start to explore a new art form and begin to think about it as a business. Some things that have challenged me were trying to understand my personal touch and what makes me stand out in an art form that I am also learning.

Having a place to create, that is not my dining room, backyard, porch, spare bedroom, or friend’s basement. Being an environmentally conscious artist; I utilize all my materials when creating art in various ways as not to waste them. And deciding if I should continue to create and explore this form of visual art. Fortunately, I love a good challenge.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Professionally, I’ve worked for 12 years as a multi-disciplinary artist, arts educator, career coordinator, and professional actor in Kansas City, Missouri.

I specialize in arts education, theatrical performance, youth leadership & facilitation, event/program coordinating, public speaking, and brand development and management. As a Career Coordinator, I serve current students and alumni at a local institution with comprehensive career preparation, finding inclusive opportunities, and growing professional partnerships to help build lifelong careers in the local and global community.

Generally, I am a teaching artist with organizations such as the Coterie Theatre, Fountain City Performing Arts, Kansas City Young Audiences, and Johnson Country Arts and Heritage Center. Working professionally as a performer, I’m signed with Exposure Model and Talent agency as a commercial and voice talent and have worked with a variety of prominent Kansas City theater companies including, The Coterie Theatre, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Unicorn Theatre, Mesner Puppet Theatre, Kansas City Actors Theatre, The Fishtank, and The Living Room Theatre.

As a visual artist, I currently work with acrylic fluid pours. I created shawnalaceyart to share my work with friends, family, and strangers. My curiosity brought me to the different techniques and science of fluid art. I find it fits my creative style, skills, and energy while allowing challenging exploration. I enjoy using bright, bold, colors that attract the eye, bring smiles to faces, and give energy and joy.

What I am proud of is that in everything I do I am confident and empowered. I want others to feel confident and empowered. Those words live with me a lot. The result I want for anyone I interact with, no matter how we interact, is that they feel that. Empowered to try, empowered to learn, empowered to explore, question, be curious, and feel connected to their potential.

Alright, so to wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Depending on what you want to do, it may take baby steps yet the way we find out if “it” works for us, whatever “it” is, is to try.


  • Commissions preferred.
  • Starting commission price is $150.

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