Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Painting Place Studio and More

Just one block off of Broadway, in a cozy house across from the museum, is The Painting Place Studio & More. Owned by artist Diana Shannon, it is a welcoming spot for art and craft lovers.

Caramel, the friendly resident cat, cozied up to my feet as I browsed and chatted with Diana about her passion to create. She is a prolific self-taught artist who gravitates toward pastoral scenes, western motifs and Native American art. There are framed pieces available, as well as painted saw blades and other objects, even a small snack table decorated with pretty flowers. Many items can be personalized, such as her Valentine's Day special- a tall mug painted with a classic red heart, the sweethearts' names and the year, filled with candy- all for $5.

In addition to the many artistic treasures to be found in the shop, Diana carries antiques, homemade lye soap, hand lotions, and candles. She also sells decorative tomahawks that incorporate found artifacts, and a line of authentic Cherokee baskets made by artisan Annette Orman. The Cherokee baskets range in price from $5-$35, while the other items start at $3.

Diana's love of painting and creating stems from her family members. Her sister, mother and grandmother were all artists, and her father worked with wood. Diana, in turn, shares her gift with other burgeoning artists through painting lessons available at her shop. Students pay $45 for four weekly sessions, each two hours long. In addition, she provides the art supplies. What a great deal!

I was lucky enough to visit at the end of one student's visit. Rebekah Gay is on her second lesson, and is working with acrylics on a snowy owl, based on her own original sketch. She is a bird aficionado, and it was a treat to see the joy and excitement she felt at expressing her passion through art. Diana is a nurturing and encouraging teacher, and she clearly enjoys seeing others discover their artistic talents.

The Painting Place Studio & More is located at 107 N. Maxwell. Hours are 10-4 Thursday-Saturday, or by appointment. Call 524-9530 for more information.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Toons About Town

There are many individuals who have called Siloam Springs "home" all of their lives, and I really enjoy hearing from them about the ways in which things have changed, or remained the same in our town. My very favorite lifetime resident happens to be Kirk Demarais, my husband. He writes a retro culture blog called The Secret Fun Blog. Several years ago, he wrote a post relating to our downtown, and it is my pleasure to share it with you here in its entirety. Enjoy!

Recently I was reading Daniel Clowes' comic strip commentary on the city of Chicago in his book Twentieth Century Eightball. After listing several pages worth of annoyances with the town, the narrator (Clowes himself) points out the "many reasons" to live in the Windy City. First on his list is a "Beetle Baileyish face painted on an abandoned hot dog shack."

While it makes for a funny joke, the statement really leaped out at me because I know exactly what he means. Instantly, I envisioned a handful of graphic landmarks in my own town that bring me a couple ounces of extra joy each time I see them. Clowes' piece inspired me to take time to document these beauties before they disappear.

This window painting dwells in what was once a bike, skateboard, and R.C. shop. Heckle and Jeckle, the magpie stars of cartoons and comic books, were hand painted on the inside glass. If you look closely you can see that they're enjoying a session with their own remote control aircraft.

I've loved this artwork since the day I first noticed it. Even when the place was in business, I struggled to understand the thinking behind the apparently random shape of the sky. For a long time I just assumed that it was unfinished. I may have been right. And Heckle and Jeckle seem like such unlikely mascots for a small town hobby store that catered to the cool kids. Given that it was painted in the early nineties, it seems like Ren and Stimpy would have made more sense. Is it meant to be ironic that birds of flight are playing with a plane? I like to guess at the thought process behind stuff like this. Was the owner up late watching cartoons when he thought "Boy, those two characters are such a crack up! I think I'll have my buddy Bill paint them on the front window. The kids will get a real kick out of it!"? Or perhaps there was a more practical explanation.. maybe the pair were thought to be public domain. Whatever the reason, I'm just happy that the shopkeeper's hunch was realized before the place shut its doors.

I love the "folk" style of this fellow, and the unexpected choice to use a bald barber pole with an overgrown goatee as a representative for the shop. In my mind he's giving chase. He seems to have run out of possibilities on his own head so now he hunts long-haired prey. His eyes are vacant and he runs with scissors. No doubt, you will meet him again in your nightmares.

Here's a relative newcomer who just popped up a few years ago. This seemingly suicidal termite invites you to "just call" the termite service. Or maybe he's a tough guy who's just looking for a good challenge. The style seems so...improvisational and yet there's an almost stroke-for-stroke duplicate on another window. I'm really going to enjoy this sad sack. In fact, I think I'd better go get a haircut and a termite inspection just to ensure the longevity of my painted friends.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Frozen Beauty

As anyone in the vicinity knows, brrrrrr, it's cold out there!
While driving down university, I was amazed to see these beautiful ice "sculptures" along Sager Creek. I don't think I've ever seen so much ice collecting on the fountains before. The one near the center looks like a baby elephant, don't you think?

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Year in Review-2009

Happy New Year!

It's hard to believe that 2010 is here. It makes me excited to think about all of the fun in store for us this year, down on Main Street. 2009 was certainly eventful, and although there were many notable events taking place in the world at large, I thought I'd look back on some of my favorite downtown experiences and memorable Main Street moments of the past year:

  • The Word on Main Street's first post in March: a visit to story time at Books on Broadway. I almost became a bit choked up, seeing the kiddos in rapt attention listening to Miss Deborah, and noticing how they've grown so much since then. I'm happy to report that story time continues to be a fun and unique downtown staple. I greatly appreciate the staff of Books on Broadway and their commitment to the growth and vitality of downtown.
Photo by Hope Johnstone
  • The Word on Main Street's illustrious band of contributors: OK, besides myself, I've relied heavily on Jenny Anglin, Karyn Elliott and Hope Johnstone. They are all incredibly talented and I have been honored to utilize their skills and to cash in on their love of downtown. Truly, these ladies have added a great deal of warmth and information to these pages, and The Word on Main Street would not exist without them. In addition to reporting on demand, Hope has provided countless images and I never fail to be amazed by her skill at capturing the magic of our town. Karyn, in addition to being a faithful reader and commenter, has been invaluable with her Farmer's Market coverage. Jenny was a tremendous help with her coverage of the fishing derby, as I had inadvertently missed out on that event. I also must say a special Thank You to Harmony at the Cafe on Broadway. There have been numerous times that she's called me up to let me know of something interesting taking place down town. She's my eyes and ears. What's that you say? You love downtown, too? You like to write and/or take pictures? Please, please contact me. Don't delay! I would love to share your words and photos of downtown. There's nothing I like better than to hear someone wax poetic about a great experience they had on Main Street.
  • A serendipitous meeting with a group of Rotarians from Thailand who were taking in the sights of downtown Siloam. This was the sort of thing that I'd hoped for when I started writing this blog. Here was a group of people from another part of the world, and they were in our small corner of the globe, enjoying and appreciating all that we have to offer. Better still, I just happened to spot them during their visit and they were kind enough to answer all of my questions and pose for a photo.
  • The Second Saturday festivities that took place for most of the year. In the past, I had always enjoyed the Second Saturday music in the park, and expanding the evening to include shopping, strolling and carriage rides was inspired!
  • The First Annual Dog Day of Summer Dog Walk, sponsored by Main Street Siloam Springs. This was just pure, adorable fun, and I hope that it will be an annual tradition for many years to come. Shelley Simmons and the Main Street staff do an amazing job of promoting and enhancing the downtown experience.
  • The Parades! Homecoming, Veteran's Day and the Christmas parade. Ahhh... the epitome of small town charm. And let's not forget the parade of costumed kids during the Downtown trick-or-treat. I must say, we certainly know how to celebrate. Let the fun begin!