Paint and brush: Order of the day at The Art Place
Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor

(Left)-Madison Horne, 4, and Gracie Horton, 8, (right) are just two aspiring young artists who took advantage of summer camp programs at The Art Place On Main this summer. The art of local children is on display at 250A Main Street for public viewing and purchase.
Staff Photo By Angela Pitts

July 31, 2005 -- Not many parents would feel comfortable turning their children loose in a room with a paintbrush and paint in hand, but at The Art Place On Main that’s exactly what parents are encouraged to do.

“We handle the clean up and provide the supplies. You just bring in the artist,” said Heather Ward, owner-operator of The Art Place On Main, located just off the downtown square in Sulphur Springs. “Art gives kids so much more than just the freedom to express themselves.”

Ward has no formal training in the field of art, but possesses a natural ability, as well as a keen appreciation for the skill, since there are professional artists on both sides of her and her husband’s family.

As the parents of four young children, ages 1,4, 6, 9, the Wards felt it was important to incorporate art into their daily lives at an early age, not to mention the fact that it is an excellent means by which to keep youngsters occupied so that other things can get done around the house.

At their home in South Carolina, she and her husband converted their dining room into an art room for the kids with designated spots for crayons and markers, play dough and clay, as well as an area for painting. But, when the couple found themselves relocating to Heather’s hometown of Sulphur Springs nine months ago, and temporarily into her mother’s home, the children no longer had a room to do their art.

That’s when Heather decided to check into some rental spaces in the downtown area to set up an art studio for her young family.

“We just have so much fun with it, I thought, ‘why shouldn’t we make it a space where everybody can come in and paint,’” she said.

According to Heather, the purpose of The Art Place On Main is not only to let children explore their creativity, but also to educate them through art.

“Art teaches math, science, vocabulary, everything,” explained Heather. “So many kids are falling through the cracks in subjects at school these days, but all kids love art. It’s hands on experience. Art teaches them about primary and secondary colors. They’re learning about the senses, touching different textures, smelling various mediums and thinking about how they will work on paper. We’re counting the number of colors in the palettes, making all kinds of shapes, mixing colors, that’s the foundation of science and chemistry. Art opens up a whole new world for learning.”

Heather explained that art encompasses all developmental domains important to a child’s growth, such as physical development and the enhancement of motor skills.

“When we’re working with clay or play dough, manipulative movements with the child’s fingers increases their dexterity,” said Heather. “They are working esthetically with their imaginations.”

Art activities also help children’s social and emotional development as well, according to Heather.

“It really helps them build their self-esteem,” said Heather, who explained that when a child sees their work framed and displayed on the walls of the establishment it is a real morale booster. “It gives them such confidence to see something they created hanging on the wall with their name and a price tag on it.”

The studio has been turned somewhat into a children’s gallery with brightly colored pictures for public viewing and purchasing.

“I have people come in all the time wanting to buy certain pieces,” she laughed. “So, we started putting prices on some of them. Some of the kids can actually say they are working artist.”

Kids are welcome to take their work home or leave select pieces to be framed and displayed for purchase or just viewing. And they get to keep the money, minus a 10 percent consignment fee that goes straight back into The Art Place On Main.

Open Studio is from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. for children 18 months and older for a nominal fee of $5. Kids come in, grab an easel, put on a smock and choose from finger paints, brush paints, markers, crayons, sketching utensils or modeling clay. And they are furnished with an unlimited supply of paper.

Open sessions have been so successful, Heather quickly realized the need to organize four day Art Camps with hour long sessions for various age groups that cost $30. Heather has since leased the area next door, appropriately called, “The Art Place Next Door,” which will be strictly for teenagers from the area.

“When the kids leave at the end of the week, they not only have new friends, but they leave feeling like they are an artist and this is truly their place,” she said. “And it is. This is a place they can come in and just let their imaginations go wild.”

The Art Place On Main is also available for birthday parties with up to 10 guests with prices varying according to theme. They also promote art contests, special events and discount days, as well as club memberships for $30 per month that gives members unlimited visits to the studio, as well as the opportunity to go on field trips to various museums in the metroplex area throughout the year.

“I hope to bring a little more culture to the kids of East Texas,” said Heather. “My direction wasn’t clear at first, but now it’s crystal clear, and it goes way beyond this. Eventually, I hope to have a professional artist so we can offer private lessons, as well as guest artists come in to teach programs in their area of expertise. Art has so many different mediums that there is something that will appeal to everyone.”

The Art Place On Main will be having its first children’s art exhibit from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 11, at Rainbow Donuts & Coffee, 111 Gilmer, displaying numerous pieces from children 18 months to 18 years of age. The feature of the exhibit will be the work of artists, ages 10-18, who took part in a contest with the theme of “Texas-USA.” The exhibit is free of charge.

Two more summer art camp sessions are available beginning the first of August, and once school starts a new fall and winter schedule will be implemented. For more information, contact Heather Ward at 903-438-9780.

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