Artist Shelley Crawford started SUNSHINE Art and Lessons, a thriving business in her Virginia town. Here’s how she did it.
ABI: How would you describe your art business?
SC: I have always been an artist. One of my dreams was to make it my career. My love for painting was nurtured by an art teacher from my childhood. I began weekly lessons in third grade and had the good fortune to learn from this talented teacher whose nine years of lessons still inspire me. The idea to make art my career developed after experiencing a painful time in my life that made me very sad. By making art and being creative, whether I was painting, drawing or creating a collage, I felt better and began to believe that making art makes you happy. I began gathering small groups of children, adults and disabled people who would also feel better with an art experience.
From my studies in psychology, my understanding of art in therapy and my personal experiences I realize that if I group my love for art, my interests in teaching and my desire to make others happy, I could fill a need in my life. The idea for this shop/studio was to offer it in my community instead of 45 minutes away in the city. As they say, timing is everything and when this charming neighborhood storefront became available I took a leap of faith. My dream has become a reality with the opening of Sunshine, a calm charming shop that feels a little like home and a little like an art gallery and a little like an art studio and has a back yard with an apple tree, too.
One of my greatest pleasures is to help others while using art making to do it. When I create with someone who is healing from a loss or disability, I believe the art making process can offer a pathway to happiness. I developed the concept of giving each person who comes to take lessons a customized creative plan and build from there. My concept is to offer an art shop; an after-school program where children leave their shoes at the door and sit on the floor; a safe outside area for drawing from nature; an opportunity for adults to paint.
I love how art making is inspiring and life enhancing. It increases confidence and happiness. For me being involved at any level is motivating. Since I love to help others, why not live my dream?
ABI: What has been the response from your community?
I opened a store that includes a studio, classrooms and a gallery walls filled with paintings to buy, adore and admire. The menagerie of creative works helps inspire other people to try their hands at it. Before they know it, they have changed their comments, “I can’t” to “I can!”
I am grateful and fortunate to live in a warm and welcoming community where Sunshine has been supported from the day we opened. The local Chamber of Commerce and the local businesses in the Village, our Women’s Club and the families whose children come regularly to Sunshine, ALL are a wonderful support system. Due to our growth, Sunshine is presently searching for a Marketing intern to join our team.
ABI: You also offer commissioned artwork. Talk about that part of your business.
SC: Teaching art allows me to enjoy so many mediums. I feel most ‘at home’ with my paint brushes, primarily working in acrylics and mixed media or oils. The commissioned pet portrait paintings are so fun to do! Capturing the expressions, happiness and sense of humor in animals offers a way to immortalize the pet always.
I have had the pleasure to make art commissioned by private individuals and businesses, as well as work with designers. I love the freedom of working with designers to create a custom piece. I also say ‘my favorite project is always to next on! I have an opportunity to express the essences, feeling and story with each new painting while being flexible with each client to develop a piece that excites.