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I was an art teacher in White County for 14 years and during that time, I either unintentionally overlooked the Searcy art scene, or it has really flourished since I left in 2018. Local muralist Jason White is regularly booked months in advance. Jo Ellis of Make.Do was named a Main Street Arkansas Hometown Hero for making thousands of masks during the early days of the pandemic—donating many to front line workers and selling others so she could continue contributing. And more hard-working crafters in Searcy and White County are doing what they love and leaving behind a legacy in paint, fabric and other artistic endeavors.
The concept of ‘shop local’ isn’t new, but perhaps it has never been so crucial as it is now. Small businesses across the state took a huge hit this year during the COVID-19 pandemic. From mandatory shutdowns, mandates to provide service at a lesser capacity and concern amongst the public have made it difficult for many businesses to thrive.
Coty Skinner of Arganic Woodwork shared his passion for helping foster kids and families during season ten of Small Business Revolution, a Hulu TV show filmed in Searcy. When shutdowns closed restaurants and other businesses, Skinner lost several clients and could not meet some of his primary business goals – primarily hiring kids who had aged out of foster care. In the end, he chose to downsize and refocus his goals. A task that he is still tackling. (You can hear more about his process in Episode 20 of The Build Guild Podcast.)
Skinner wasn’t the only artisan to take a hit, and many of Searcy’s artists are feeling the strain on their wallets. Many did not qualify for financial assistance following shutdowns. Additionally, the self-employed often don’t qualify for unemployment, so many artisans did the only thing they could do—keep on creating.
Because of their hard work and dedication to their craft, we get to benefit from these artists’ resilience. Downtown Searcy is a great place to support both the arts in general and local artists and is home to several artists and art-related businesses. It’s a great place to shop and support artisans and a great place to learn a new craft or artistic skill. Whether you’re into music, painting, sewing, or just want to support a local artist by making a purchase, Searcy is the place to do it.
Located just outside of Downtown Searcy, The Artistry is a haven for artists and art lovers alike. This unique shop opened about four years ago and is owned and operated by artist Kathi Raines. Sixty-five artists display their work in booths scattered throughout the store that also serves as a classroom during “normal” times. Interestingly, of the 65 artists on display, 62 are local, with most living in White Country. The artists all come from various backgrounds, and the store represents the work and passion of retirees, stay-at-home moms, nurses, business professionals, school teachers and more. When you purchase at the Artistry, you aren’t just supporting Kathi. You are supporting the families of 65 different artists.
Follow the Artistry on Facebook.
Photo courtesy of Make.Do.
Make.Do. is a nonprofit started by Jo Ellis and founded on the principle that everyone is valuable and creative. Through a series of “pay-what-you-can” classes, Ellis offers affordable classes to the public that boost creativity, self-esteem and create a sense of community. Ellis also works with local groups to help them find ways to incorporate creativity into their outreach program.
In light of the recent increase in COVID-19 cases, Make.Do. has decided to close their studio to the public temporarily (you can still book private parties). Fortunately, Ellis and kid’s program director Madison Hale are really good at making do and have launched a QuaCCky Christmas. This Christmas Quarantine Craft Camp will include a series of holiday-themed workshops (including a cute gnome painting class taught by yours truly) that you can do from the comfort of your own home. Order a kit, pick it up or have it delivered, then follow along with a video that will guide you through the project from start to finish.
Photo courtesy of Whispering Wood Studio.
Whispering Wood began as a hobby and turned into a full-fledged business. Tim and Donna Cleveland made signs and sold them locally, occasionally hosting small classes to share her love of painting wood with others. In February 2019, Whispering Wood moved into a new studio space in downtown Searcy to begin a new chapter hosting classes where attendees could transform raw wood into beautiful home decor pieces. It’s a great place to spend an evening with friends. And they even offer take-home kits if you prefer to stay in.
Photo courtesy of AJs Art Studio.
Audra Jones graduated from Harding, where she fell in love with watercolor painting. She paints beautiful pet portraits and loves art journaling and working with various media from paint, paper, glitter and other embellishments. She felt a calling to create a space where kids and adults could learn how to express themselves artistically.
AJs Art Studio’s primary focus is kids, and you will not believe the lovely artwork they are creating! AJs is open by appointment and for scheduled classes and camps that allow kids to explore their creativity and make beautiful art. You can also book parties and private lessons for kids and adults ages six and up.
Photo courtesy of Beautiful Noise Music.
Have you ever wanted to learn how to play the guitar? There is no better time than now! Jason Coleman is a talented musician, and kids and adults of all ages will enjoy learning from him. Located in a beautiful building in downtown Searcy, Jason not only teaches lessons but can also make repairs on guitars as well as violins, violas, cellos, and the upright bass. Beautiful Noise has been in business for 13 years and is known for its summer ukulele program for children.
Contact Jason at Beautiful Noise by calling (501) 268-6200 or visiting them on Facebook.
Photo by Al Fowler.
Over 50 years ago Quattlebaum Music opened their doors in Searcy to provide musical instruments, lessons and repairs to the residents of White County. They prided themselves on friendly “mom and pop” service back then and continue to offer the same unmatched level of service today. From personalized music instruction, instruments from the best brands in the business, and services that range from repairing musical instruments to installing sound systems in schools and churches–Quattlebaums is the musical hub for Searcy. Quattlebaum Music offers lessons six days a week and has a great layaway program so you can purchase your instrument when you are ready.
Photo courtesy of Glass From the Past.
Susan Nolte, master stained-glass smith and owner of Glass From the Past, loves teaching the art of stained glass. Drop by and create a custom piece, sign up for a class or shop Nolte’s personal collection of finished pieces.
Visit Glass From the Past on Facebook.
Melt Art Studio moved from McCrory and is the newest addition to downtown Searcy. Drop by the studio and select from hundreds of options to paint your own pottery. It is so much fun. You can design trinkets, ornaments, or even your own set of dinnerware. When you walk in, you will select your piece, choose your colors and sit down to paint. Once you’re done, you’ll leave it to be fired and pick it up in about a week.
The studio has regular open studio times, so you can just walk in and paint. They also host parties and offer take-home kits. Just arrange to bring your work back to be fired.
Cover photo of Downtown Searcy courtesy of Al Fowler.
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