Teresa Hougnon was born in Loup City, Nebraska, but grew up in Buena Vista, Colorado. She is the 9th of 11 siblings which shaped her worldview of life as a paradox, chaos to withdraw from and adventure always renewing itself. Teresa began drawing and painting at a young age, learning from her mother who was an artist in her spare time. But art was not to be followed as a career, so Teresa dedicated her life to service.
After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy in 1984, Teresa served 3 years in the U.S. Army in Germany. Returning to the U.S. she found her way to Brooklyn and worked at Providence House, Inc., a shelter for homeless women and children, and El Puente, a youth development center. In 1996, Teresa became a Maryknoll Sister, a Catholic missionary. Teresa continued to make art in her spare time as her mother had done.
Teresa arrived in East Timor in August 1999, shortly before the country was destroyed by the Indonesian military. On September 4, she sat on the porch of the sisters’ house, drawing her feelings, as ashes from burning houses fell from the sky. She had no language skills or familiarity with the territory, so she turned to her art. It was here Teresa began to realize art making was an important part of her inner work and spirituality. In a newly independent country, Teresa worked with students and teachers to rebuild the Catholic high school and taught peacebuilding, reconciliation and art skills.
As the world grew more diverse with migrants and refugees moving across borders, escaping poverty, conflict and natural disasters, Teresa joined two other Maryknoll sisters in forming an intentional intercultural community and travelled to Kenya for their next mission. Kenya is made up of 46 different ethnic groups who have experienced ethnic conflict every election cycle since 1992. Teresa’s work for the past 14 years has been social healing, personal transformation, and intercultural living skills. She is a certified Transformational Breath Facilitator and a certified Spiritual Director (Global Online Benedictine Spiritual Direction Program)
As Teresa worked with others in the sisters’ community and the Kenyan communities, she grew to understand herself more deeply. In 2015, she felt a deep crisis in her life that could only be answered with art making. She enrolled in an Interdisciplinary Art Program at California Institute of Integrated Studies and graduated in May 2020.
Today Teresa is devoting time to painting and drawing and has integrated her visual arts with her personal transformation and social healing programs. She uses a unique method of meditation and embodiment to inspire the images she paints with oil on canvas. She continues to emulate her mother by creating passionate portraits of the people she knows and works with.
Her work has been exhibited in Buena Vista, CO (1984), in Ossining, NY (1996, 1997) , White Plains, NY (2005) and in Nairobi, Kenya (2012). Teresa was commissioned to do a painting in 2015 for the Jesuit Historical Institute of Africa.