By Ellen Chappelle, Arts Writer and contibutor to Pivot Edmonds
Edmonds-area artists have been enjoying a cozy new gathering spot for the past two years right in the middle of the downtown core. ARTspot – equal parts art supply store, classroom, gallery and community – offers the creative crowd more than just a convenient place to shop and learn. It’s an artsy spin on TV’s Cheers, where “everybody knows your name.” And they’re happy to jump in to share encouragement and support for your artistic journey.
Just as the feeling of a home reflects its owner, the vibe at ARTspot mirrors the women who brought it to life. One of this dynamic duo (along with Denise Cole of the elegant Cole Gallery) is Tracy Kay Felix: artist, teacher, mother, encourager and warmth personified. “My life is a road map of creative pursuits,” said Felix. “Some of my career has been what I planned and most of it is walking through doors of opportunity when they presented themselves. Creating ARTspot is a culmination of my commercial art and fine art experiences – and being willing to leap when Denise Cole offered me a partnership in her art supply business.”
Her dream for ARTspot? “To be a hub for the local art community,” she exclaimed. “To support the creative process. To be a really cool store that people love. To be a contributing member of the local business community. To provide stable employment for our artists. To share the art love!”
Part of sharing the “art love” includes carrying the very best art supplies available. ARTspot is already building a reputation for their high-quality products. Richly colored, environmentally friendly paints; beautiful pencils by the last remaining American pencil company; and cool, new items like gel printing plates line the walls.
“I don’t believe in poor quality art materials because they thwart the artist,” stated Felix. “I also choose to carry as much locally, regionally and U.S. made products as I can. We support many companies that are family-owned and make their products with environmentally responsible manufacturing. It feels really good to use our own purchasing power to reward these aspects of business.”
Another exciting aspect of ARTspot is their growing schedule of classes and demos. Every instructor (and every employee) is a professional, working artist with a love for their medium and for guiding others on their own creative quest. For the kids, three-day art camps are offered weekly throughout the summer, while adults can choose from painting, drawing and creativity classes.
“We want to inspire people of all ages to tap into their creative side,” Felix explained. “We sell art journals and pens and the best, most beautiful paints, all to the purpose of augmenting the self-expression of the individual. We are here for someone to take their first class, buy their child or grandchild a journal and set of colors, or to delight in a sculpture or painting.”
Believing that an artist’s creativity is “built into their personal wiring,” Felix, herself a painter, seeks to encourage that natural proclivity in others.
“Luckily, my parents nurtured my artistic bent with lots of coloring books, then private lessons and then supported my desire to go to art school,” she explained. “My earliest memory is asking, ‘Mommy, will you color with me?’ And she did.”
After studying and working in oil, watercolors and acrylic for many years, Felix added encaustics to her repertoire “after hanging out with Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch and Lisa JonesMoore a few years ago.”
“I love the smell of beeswax,” she said. “I resisted getting into a new medium as long as I could, but the lure of the warm, luscious wax tempted me. I can do all the textures and layering I developed with my acrylic painting in a whole new playground.”
Felix’s passion, joy and warmth are contagious. So it’s easy to see that teaching others to find their creative passion is a natural outgrowth of her personal artistic expression. Felix’s favorite part of teaching is “putting the power of art in people’s hands. It is all couched in teaching techniques,” she explained, “but my real motive is to encourage people to give themselves the permission and the tools to do this thing. The process of making art is can be frustrating, difficult, challenging, but it’s also joyful, empowering and self-enlightening. Getting to share the wonderful feeling of moving color around on a surface, to see how art can make people happy, the ‘a-ha’ moments… That is why I have been teaching for years and years, and hopefully years to come.”
ARTspot, which seems just the kind of place that will last in Edmonds for years to come, has been “warmly received by the community.” And its growth has been impressive in its first two years, with no end in sight. To keep up on the latest news, check out their Facebook page. To sign up for classes, visit their website. And, of course, stop by in person to see the art supplies and the local art for sale in the store!
“I am looking for contributors to our blog, to share process and art experiences,” said Felix. “I am dreaming of putting together a non-profit to bring art enrichment out to the community – in schools, senior centers and events. I want Edmonds to have a “freewall” where artists can come from all over to paint. We have artists-in-action for every Third Thursday ArtWalk and demos every fourth Saturday. I can’t stop thinking of things we can do!”