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Artist Carlyn Ray spreads light through soaring community installations


THE BEST PART OF BEING an artist is being able to create with color and light every day. It is truly magical,” notes Carlyn Ray, owner of Carlyn Ray Designs, a team of experienced glass artists, engineers, fabricators, and installers. As a young girl, Ray was captivated when she saw glass being blown. She was also impacted by seeing her sister go in and out of hospitals. Witnessing the healing power of art and positivity left an incredible imprint on Ray, who understands how a spark of color or prism of light can lend support to a patient who is feeling overwhelmed or afraid. “Creating art is a link to an intimate source to connect to one another,” says Ray, who notes that as her business grows she wants to give back to the community, channeling the power of outreach through art.

The stars were aligned when Ronald McDonald House of Dallas approached Ray to create something magical in the main staircase of its new wing. After several conversations about the space, she came up with the concept of an installation featuring butterflies. “The more I learned about Ronald McDonald House and the support that it gives to families, the more I saw how the whole center is like a cocoon. Within this cocoon, they are giving the sick kids and families everything they need to spread their wings and soar,” she says.

Ray has a passion for creating healing art, art that makes one happy and lifts the spirits. One way to do that is to choose a happy element, like butterflies, which make almost everyone smile. The other way is to share the creative process with the community and make it a collaborative effort. The team at Ronald McDonald House loved this idea, and throughout the month of July, Carlyn Ray Designs hosted several different design sessions for the families and kids of the patients living at the center. The board and staff also decorated butterflies that were used in the staircase and in each of the new 33 rooms. In total, more than 300 of the 700-plus butterflies were created by the patients, families, board, and staff at Ronald McDonald House. Carlyn Ray Designs created shadow boxes that feature the butterflies up close.

Ray also serves as artistic director of the nonprofit Art Reaching Out, and she was recently approached by Kate Perry, director of philanthropy and special projects at Independent Bank, to create a new community art project for the Family Health Care Center at Virginia Parkway in McKinney, Texas. Family Health Care provides health-care services to low-income families, and in June it broke ground on a new, 25,000-square-foot facility that will open in late summer 2020.

Ray is over the moon at the prospect of galvanizing the community through a creative and collaborative art project. “It may feature birds, butterflies or feathers,” muses Ray, who looks forward to having the children help brainstorm the theme.

Ray obtained a fine arts degree at the College of William & Mary and subsequently trained under Dale Chihuly. Utilizing STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) curriculum, Ray and Art Reaching Out has also worked with students at Girls Inc., Café Momentum, Young Women’s Preparatory Network, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas.

“The children play a major role in the creative process,” says Ray, who notes that glass offers so much hands-on learning, not only in art but also in science, physics, and chemistry. She also teaches classes at Dallas Glass Art and works with private clients through Carlyn Ray Designs. “My work is sacred,” she says. Through her community work, she hopes to “spark imagination, share creativity and help everyone reconnect
with their childlike wonder.”

Stacey Marcus is a Boston-based freelance lifestyle, luxury and travel writer. Her works have appeared in Art New England, Boston, Boston Common Magazine, Coastal Design Magazine, Charleston Style & Design, Modern Luxury Chicago, Ocean Home Magazine,,, and many others.  A lover of big words and little white dogs, Stacey’s biggest joys are found in life’s simple moments.

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