7 years ago I blindly dug my fingers into a bounty of paint and created a garden themed art studio. As a community artist, I spent 20 years painting murals all over the US in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other healing environments. I had kids later in life and quit traveling to put down roots in SW Minneapolis. Once they were in school I decided that instead of going out into the community to paint, I would bring art into my local community by founding an art center! I knew nothing about business but it felt like the right thing to do. I found myself a business partner, a young entrepreneur who suggested we become a LLC business instead of a non-profit due to the economy at the time. I was optimistic and rented a little store front on 48th and Nicollet. I had simplified my mural designs and put them on everything from stretched canvas to accessories. I felt that if I planted it – it would grow! I soon found out that starting a business requires a lot more energy and work than I had thought! Unfortunately my business partner’s only skill was financial planning and we had very little finances! I eventually bought him out and tried tilling the business on my own.
WEATHERING THE STORM
I truly believe that Art is therapy; I know this personally as it helps me to cope with anxiety and depression. I soon realized others were coming to the studio for their own healing as well. People constantly comment on how relaxing and gratifying it is to paint again or for the first time in many years. At the studio we teach everyone on their own level how to use the materials which guarantees success. The little store front on 48th & Nicollet had the bathrooms and one of the party rooms in the lower level. I have two nieces in wheel chairs and an elderly mother not to mention all the other people coming in with special needs. If the garden were to grow we needed an accessible studio for all people and all abilities. The studio was a great concept, but without any business skills it just broke even and I never drew a salary. If it were to survive and grow, I needed to up my loan, hire more than summer camp teachers and move to a larger, accessible studio!
FINDING THE RIGHT CONDITIONS TO GROW
When my lease was up I uprooted and moved to 5411 Nicollet to a much larger space. With a new loan Simply Jane moved into its new home in 2010 and I was able to open up 3 new party/event rooms and a large open studio space by removing the drop ceiling and revealing a beautiful skylight. The studio had found its place to put down roots and grow deeper.
In 2012 Simply Jane flowered into Simply ArtAble and became a 501c3 non-profit! With a grant from VSA Minnesota we added automatic doors at the entrance and bathroom, ramps and an adjustable table. A back parking lot was transformed into a lovely courtyard with a bright sunflower mural. The studio continues to host parties, events, classes and drop-in paint sessions, but now we also offer art programs that serve people with disabilities. With a volunteer board of directors ArtAble still just breaks even and I continue to volunteer my time and expertise; but we are doing so much more in the community and I am proud that we are able to support 2 full time artists and 2 employees with disabilities!
THE FUTURE OF THE GARDEN
Today we are hosting weekly group home paint sessions, teaching classes at Abbott NW and Children’s hospital and we partner with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Mt. Olivet, The Museum of Russian Art, Community Involvement Partners and more. Please continue to support our little garden plot and know that everything you spend helps to grow our programs for people with disabilities and to employ artists.
It’s about peace & love, Jane