Edwards brings ‘Artitude’ to downtown Greenville

Published 11:37 am Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The walls are a little bare, but there’s already color everywhere in the Camellia City’s new downtown art studio: rows of colored pencils, markers, gel pens, a gleaming array of baubles and beads; palettes of watercolor paint, even red Solo cups for wetting and rinsing brushes. Watercolor paintings, artist cards (funkier, more creative version of the old trading card) and other student works of art are drying in the front window. A  crimson bike leans against a chair, the subject of an art project for older students.

Welcome to Artitude, located next to Harriet Foshee’s optometry office on Commerce St. in downtown Greenville.

It’s a new venture by veteran art teacher and artist Stacey Edwards. While the classes only started last week, it’s been something this creative soul has wanted to do for a long time.

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“Our friend Ben Norman has been wanting a larger space for Norman Computer Services and he asked if I would like to share the building. I couldn’t turn it down,” explains Edwards. “I had just had surgery, with a six week recovery, but I still jumped at the opportunity. I am still amazed at all I have accomplished in this short amount of time. I guess when you’ve been tossing the idea around in your mind for this long, there is nothing left to do, but act on it!”

Edwards taught art at her alma mater, Greenville High School, for 13 years, following in the footsteps of her high school art teacher, Priscilla Solomons Davis, following Davis’ retirement.

Being both a student and a teacher at GHS was a big influence on Edwards in terms of not only developing her artistic potential, but also making a positive difference in the community.

“I have always enjoyed the interactions with our community the arts have afforded me,” Edwards says.

“Our small town is alive and interested in continuing our long tradition of quality art education in our community. When I left teaching a few years ago, I found I definitely missed the creativity that I gain from teaching. Ideas for lessons are always evolving—and I had missed the excitement of planning cool and interesting things for my students that I had seen online or when I was out and about.”

Taking note of historical events and huge societal changes had the former art teacher champing at the bit to create lessons to reflect what was going on around her, “but I had no reason to do them.”

“I am always more creative in a classroom than at home.” She laughs. “I give my students all my great ideas!”

Artitude isn’t just a place to hold art classes. It is a place for Edwards to create her own art free from the distractions of daily life as wife to Chad and mother of their two active boys, Simon and Hollis.

“My family has definitely come first . . . but it is hard to get the laundry done, all school deadlines met and also maintain a meaningful conversation with your spouse. Add in that pesky right brain activity when making art and you just can’t seem to stay focused on a single project,” Edwards explains.

Art, she says, takes space—both physically and mentally.

“Ideas are not just perfected in the amount of time it takes to pull out your paints. The project, the canvas has to sit and you have to look at it—for weeks, sometimes. Being able to work uninterrupted during the day has been great. I have gotten so much accomplished already in terms of my own artwork!”

Currently, Edwards is offering art lessons for grades K-12 on Mondays and Tuesday afternoons at her studio.

“Right now, we are learning how to use the various elements of art and the principles of design to create artwork and just flex those creative muscles. The older kids are learning more drawing and composition, as I have a few who are working on portfolios for college.”

After the first of the year, Edwards says she plans to offer a class for pre-K students as well as adult workshops.

“Our first adult workshop will be on collaging in the style of my portraits; I love this technique and have often been asked to teach it.

We also do our monthly paint parties that cater to the person who wants to simply come and paint for a few hours and have fun. These are really the best way to start if you have never done art before.”

As for future student projects, the ideas are practically overflowing, she says.

“I have so many—my problem is organizing my thoughts and figuring out a way of getting the concepts and ideas across to the kids,” Edwards says.

“For example, color theory is a fun, but also a challenging, part of beginning art. I thought having the kids mix colors using icing and cookies would help them remember the color mixing and also be something fun and festive for the holidays.”

She is also looking ahead to holding an annual art show that takes place “up and down Main Street.”

“I know that many of our downtown businesses would be happy to allow the kids to ‘borrow’ their window space for an art show!”

In Edwards’ view, art isn’t just a pleasant diversion, but an essential part of any well-rounded education. 

“Art teaches us creativity, problem solving, perseverance; it helps us focus, builds our confidence and teaches us how to receive constructive criticism,” Edwards says.

“We learn how to communicate non-verbally and how to collaborate with others through the fine arts. It reinforces the idea that you must be dedicated to really succeed at anything.”

Edwards considers herself a lifelong learner in the world of art.

“When you see an older artist, it is amazing the knowledge they have attained just from their mistakes.  You can’t learn that in a book; you have to learn it from experience.  Either yours, or from a really good art teacher. I had that right here in Greenville, Alabama. And I truly want to pay it forward.”