AS AMERICA’S FIRST FEMALE SPEED PAINTER, TEXARKANA NATIVE JESSICA HAAS USES HER TALENTS TO SHARE HER BELIEFS AND ENCOURAGE OTHERS
text by LINDSEY MCMILLAN
America’s first female speed painter expresses herself with a message of inspiration. Texarkana native Jessica Haas has made a name for herself in the art world and serves as a trailblazer for young women. She developed this unique talent at age 16 when she was named Miss Teen Texarkana Arkansas.
A 2008 graduate of Pleasant Grove High School, Jessica took her love of art and has perfected it into a skilled dance which has entertained countless audiences across America. She was a student at the Memphis College of Art when she met a fellow speed painter, and under his tutelage, she moved from the medium of charcoal to paint on a larger scale where she creates a masterpiece in 90 seconds or less. From competing in the Miss Teen Arkansas pageant where she was in the Top 15, Jessica also became Miss Collierville which she won in 2013. Her performance in the Miss Tennessee pageant that year won the talent division with a phenomenal 4x6 upside down paining of Jesus, and she placed overall in the pageant’s Top 10. This was a record performance and notable in particular since she was the first talent division winner with a speed painting/art performance in the history of the Miss America organization.
Since then, Jessica has garnered much attention for this talent helping to propel many young women to choose speed painting as their talent in pageants around the country. As a young art student, Jessica found her calling, first working with Pleasant Grove High School teacher Nicole Brisco who helped her to expand her talent into a performing art form. She later wanted to connect with Memphis inner city youth where she tried to perfect her craft for a greater purpose. “I wanted my message to be for the glory to the Lord,” Jessica explains. “I have tried to be obedient, and I felt that God was going to tie my faith and art together. He’s always had a plan.” She has continued her mission of helping underprivileged youth, particularly girls, with Unbound Ministries, a program she founded.
New York Magazine has called her the “Mother of the Speed Painting Movement,” and she has also been spotlighted on the cable television program Country Bucks on the A&E Network. Most recently, Jessica won ABC’s The Gong Show where celebrity judges Will Arnett, Jennifer Aniston, and Jack Black were in awe of her portrait of Will. Jessica laughs at recalling the instance where Will stopped Jack seconds from hitting the gong as Jessica expertly turned the canvas from upside down to reveal the masterpiece. “It was so thrilling to win it,” she says excitedly about her appearance on the competitive show in August of 2017. The producers of the show had actually approached her about appearing, and since her win, she has been named the record holder for being the fastest female speed painter.
The publicity and notoriety has opened up other opportunities making the upcoming year a busy one for Jessica. She has busied herself since then with performances at an Ohio State University football halftime show, as well as at women’s conferences and corporate events both in the United States and Canada. This month, she will be performing at halftime in the women’s NCAA Final Four tournament. She says how it is both thrilling and intimidating to perform in large venues where thousands of people have their eyes trained on her and what she is creating. Jessica says, “My performance involves different aspects as I develop it for different audiences adding in new and relevant concepts which encourages viewers to think creatively.” This, she says adds an element of surprise and magic for those in their seats. The element of unpredictability in the entertainment business is unique and sets her apart from other performers.
A longtime resident of Memphis, Jessica now resides in Chicago with her husband, Tyson Dodd, who is a worship pastor. The two met in Indianapolis at his home church which had brought her in to perform while on tour. They married this past June, and Chicago is their home base for now as Tyson ministries at a church there but also travels with her serving as the musical collaborator and producer. She has always performed to music so marrying a musician was a perfect match. She says the two of them share the same mind-set where she creates the visual and he the audio with the result being two elements choreographed together like a dance. Jessica comments on how physically demanding a performance is, involving both endurance and athletic training. Jessica is also always studying various entertainment forms; most recently, she refers to the recent movie The Greatest Showman and how it inspires various forms of art expression.
Jessica says she is proud to be a role model for girls who want to find their own unique expression of ideas and beliefs. She contributed as a writer to a teen devotional entitled He Is in 2017. The Sacred Holidays ministry pursued her to contribute to the book with other women of faith. She has always had a heart for girls’ ministry from an early age. She interned at First Baptist Church Texarkana and has always been interested in teaching girls the Bible, continuing this passion at her church in Memphis. Jessica also attended seminary at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. She is currently busy at work on another publishing project which is a devotional that includes a sketchbook. This is yet another way Jessica hopes to encourage young girls and teens to express themselves. “I want to teach girls about how God is eternal,” she explains. “My entry in He Is talks about daily choices which expand His kingdom and a view of the greater good.”
Jessica is the founder and CEO of Creative Arts Biz and also owns a Memphis art business called The Birds Nest Co. This is a creative agency encompassing web, graphic and photo design which she started while in college and is managed by friends and colleagues while she’s on tour. More information on both performance and fine art can be found on her business’s website at www.thebirdsnestco.com. Ideally, she and Tyson would like to return to the Nashville area to be closer to her agent, David Kiggins and Press Management Group. She is also sponsored by Sargent, a large national art supplier.
Jessica returns to visit Texarkana regularly to visit her family who are here. This includes her parents, Kim and Eddy Barnes, and brothers, Kaiden Barnes and Keegan Haas. She reaches out extensively to others interested in her performances and ministry via social media as well as her website: www.jessicakhaas.com. She also contributes via her YouTube channel with tutorial videos of how to paint Jesus and explore various art mediums.
On her first international performance in Canada, Jessica painted a large collage within an hour using mixed media. The largest piece she has created was a 24-foot panel of glass in just 90 seconds, her classic time. As if all of these accomplishments are not enough, she also appeared at the U.S. Supreme Court with a painting demonstration on behalf of the freedom of expression. Indeed, Jessica has provided a definite impact on many with the blend of art, faith, beauty, and a drive to help others.