Downtown Conway is beginning to experience a burgeoning artistic renaissance, and it is starting with its youth.
An art class of four children met on July 19 at the Conway Recreation Center at 1515 Mill Pond Road, illustrating that this new movement is taking hold.
“A lot of parents said they've been looking for something like this for a while now. The kids are really excited for the next class,” said CREATE! art teacher and Coastal Carolina University graduate Jesse Nevins.
The art class is the first in a series due to a new partnership between the City of Conway Parks and Recreation department and the nonprofit artists’ organization CREATE!. The class will meet every third Saturday of the month, with the next course featuring soap carving with artist Susan Allen and the Waccamaw Carvers’ Guild. Adult classes will soon begin as well, and registration will be offered on the organization’s website at http:// createconway.com.
CREATE! was awarded a $500 grant by the City of Conway Parks and Recreation department to launch the classes, but there will be an entry fee per person to aid with supplies as grant funding will be predominantly used for advertising.
A $5,000 grant was also recently awarded to CREATE! head Barbara Streeter by the South Carolina Arts Commission, which is also fanning the flames of this revitalization of the arts by providing funding that will aid the production and promotion of her art initiative project, Conway Open Studio.
“The S.C. Arts Commission grant makes it possible for me to add video equipment, lighting and other improvements to our glassblowing studio, and also provide the public with an enhanced visitor experience. This funding will also help us achieve our mission of providing free narrated educational demonstrations of glass blowing to the public every first Saturday, October through May,” explained Streeter in a news release.
The goal of the Conway Open Studio Project is to raise awareness of art-making as a career and to introduce visitors to entertaining, educational and fun art experiences in downtown Conway, according to the release.
Streeter’s Conway Open Studio will feature area artists and propel her glassblowing studio’s “experimental glass theater” project. Streeter said her upcoming glassblowing course will be part theater, part instruction with some “glassblowing magic.”
“It will be something Conway has never seen before,” said Streeter, who co-owns Conway Glass in downtown Conway at 209 Laurel St. with her husband, Ed.
Streeter cited the recovering economy as the source behind the budding art scene in Conway. Now that the plague of a bad economy is starting to ebb, an art renaissance is in full swing as people have the time and resources to invest in personal hobbies again. She said the fresh interest in the arts will not only enhance the visitor experience, but also bring more to the downtown Conway area.
“This town can really be the whole package. The city and local art organizations are really pulling together. The art scene is all alive,” said Marjorie Mitchell, owner of the Mad Hatter and Company, LLC at 1703 Park View Road.
The Mad Hatter and Company is an antique store in downtown Conway that specializes in providing accent pieces that add flair. It is also branching into an artist co-op with about 10 participating artists.
Mitchell will soon host a four-week artist workshop which will be an introduction to using acrylic or oil paints for adults. Additionally, the Mad Hatter and Company is featuring the work of local artist Rachel Jones, who will be continuing her “Let’s Paint Poppies” class July 30 and Aug. 1. The course is an instruction on an artistic method that blends water and acrylic paint to create unique images.
Mitchell said the city of Conway is really looking to create foot traffic with these new art initiatives and bring more in the way of entertainment to the area.
Other downtown Conway area businesses are also beginning to offer art classes. The Shabby Chick at 910 Third Ave. is hosting courses on how to paint furniture in a shabby chic décor style. Also, Shabby Chick’s neighbor, Third Avenue Home at 913 Third Ave., is presenting art courses as well. Third Avenue Home features the handmade creations of local artists as well as antiques.
Sandra’s Ceramics at 2683 N. Main St. is holding art classes for all ages, and those enrolled will have the choice of painting either a side-sitting fairy or a dragon claw. A course is being held July 24 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. geared toward children, but is open to those who are kids at heart. Supplies are included in the $21.50 entry fee.
“People are really excited about all these new classes. They’re really going to cover a niche that hasn’t been filled,” said Mitchell.
“The area is hungry for this,” said Certified Parks and Recreation Executive Foster Hughes.
Hughes said the City of Conway Parks and Recreation department’s athletics’ branch has evolved steadily over the past four years, but a growing art aspect has been missing, and they’ve been looking to fill that void for citizens.
CREATE! has been a 501(c)4 corporation since 2011, and was specifically designed by local artists to celebrate and promote the arts in the community. The CREATE! board meets the third Monday of every month at 6 p.m. at 209-B Laurel St. The meetings are free and open to the public. Anyone interested in presenting an art-related item to the board can contact Barbara Streeter at 248-4527.