When JoAnn Small opened ARTspace in April, she had the simple ambition of cleaning out her attic. Six months later, the studio gallery has evolved into a popular arts spot that she hopes to see grow.
JoAnn Small is not a businesswoman. She will tell you she’s not an artist (“with a capital N-O-T,” she says).
Yet here she is, running ARTspace, a popular studio gallery that she opened in April. Three artists have studio space here: Katy Caroline Gullett, Katie Schindler, and Donna Hollowell. And more than two dozen local artists display their paintings, watercolors, pottery, textiles, and jewelry.
Small has a little studio in the back — “with the bathroom and the coffeemaker.” Only these days, she’s too busy running the business to use the space.
She describes herself: “I’m a gallery owner under protest.”
That statement’s not entirely true. Small loves art and loves her community, and ARTspace has given her an opportunity to support both.
It’s a lively place. At least one artist is typically at work during store hours. Katy Caroline’s paints and personality fill up the front of the store. Schindler sews artistic aprons and other textiles in her space. And Hollowell, a longtime friend of Small’s, rejuvenates old furnishings and frames with whimsical paint schemes and creates small, floral paintings. Spirited conversations, among artists and customers, fill the space.
Showcasing local artists, ARTspace stays busy with local shoppers and tourists. The gallery also offers classes. Regular sessions include: Sip and Dip painting classes every Thursday with Katy Caroline, who also leads Art Boot Camp; monthly Art for the Soul journaling workshops and Zentangle classes with Hollowell; and Still Life workshops with Brad Price on Mondays.
Small gets calls weekly from artists looking for studio space or asking her to feature their work in ARTspace. She hates to turn them away, but this business is already more than she imagined when she and Hollowell envisioned a storefront as the perfect place to paint and sell furniture they each had accumulated over a lifetime.
“Looking at my attic and looking at her storage unit, we said, ‘Let’s paint it and sell it and be done with it,’” Small says. “This was a means to an end for me.”
She invited the two Katies to rent space in the gallery for two reasons. Renting out studio space obviously helps keep costs down. But more importantly, from the beginning, Small saw ARTspace as an opportunity to support young artists. She admires Schindler’s and Katy Caroline’s talent — and their work ethic — and she wanted to provide them a way to market their art.
Small would love to see ARTspace grow. And the potential is there. A couple of nearby empty storefronts would make ideal studio galleries, she says, and with that addition, Southern Shores Crossing could become an arts destination. You can tell she’s having a hard time resisting the urge to make this happen.
But Small envisions someone else eventually taking over the business end of things. At this point in her life, she’d rather be one of the studio girls, painting old furniture in her little space, simply enjoying the work and the atmosphere.
“I just want to get it up and running and hope these young artists will be able to take it and run with it,” Small says. “Like I said, this is a means to an end for me. I’m hoping it’s a means to a beginning for Katy Caroline or for whoever will want to continue it as a business.”
ARTspace Gallery and Studios
Southern Shores Crossing
1 Ocean Boulevard, #108
Southern Shores, N.C. 27949
Diane Summerville is the senior editor of Our State magazine.