Cade Kramer knew he needed an elective course to fulfill his graduation requirements, so he took a painting class. He didn’t know that his choice would help change the course of his life.
In the fall of 2020, Kramer was again in a familiar place — lining up as a wide receiver for the Eden Prairie Eagles’ football team. The senior team captain excelled on the field, leading the Eagles to an undefeated 7-0 season and earning All-State honors from the Associated Press. He accepted a scholarship to play for the University of Minnesota Duluth, an NCAA Division II school with a recent history of success.
Kramer was struggling, though. He was experiencing anxiety and depression, and football was not as fulfilling as it once was.
He realized that “there’s other stuff in life — not just football.”
His artistic journey started simply enough, painting landscapes and fruit on paper in an online class that fall. Gradually, it grew into something bigger, something more meaningful.
“Every time I would paint I would feel at peace, relaxed, not as stressed,” Kramer said. He kept painting on his own and developed such a love for it that it was hard to leave behind the work he had done in the summer of 2021 to head to Duluth for college.
“It came out of nowhere,” Kramer said of his passion for painting.
That fall, Kramer was a “redshirt,” meaning he could practice with the team but not play in games. It’s a common practice in college football that allows younger players to develop their skills while maintaining their eligibility to play in future seasons.
He got even more serious about painting that semester, starting SpeakupArt, his own online business. SpeakupArt showcases Kramer’s abstract art, his preferred style.
“Abstract is definitely my favorite type of art,” he said. “There are no mistakes.”
Around that time, Kramer decided that football, once his passion, was no longer for him. He decided he would not return to the UMD football team in 2022. He said leaving football behind wasn’t as hard as he thought it would be.
“I wasn’t having fun with it anymore,” he said.
Kramer chose the name SpeakupArt to encourage others to be open about their mental health difficulties and search for outlets that might help them find more peace — just like painting has done for him.
“Through my art, I try to help others,” he said. “You don’t want people to think they’re alone. Everyone needs some peace in their life. Everyone needs some type of art in their life.”
Kramer said that he loves painting because of the ways it allows him to express himself.
“My work is all in my head,” he said. “When I need to take out what I feel, I can do it on the canvas.”
The football player-turned-painter plans to transfer to a community college closer to home this fall. He’s thinking about studying psychology and possibly pursuing a career as a therapist.
Kramer knows firsthand that the unexpected can turn into something wonderful, and he plans to keep moving forward, with painting to help guide him.
“Painting is just like life,” he said. “If you mess up, you’ve just got to go with it. Usually, at the end, it turns out the way you want it.”
Find Kramer’s art at speakupart.com.