It’s a unique space in the Old City. Previously occupied by Blue Slip Winery, the space opens from Jackson, down a staircase under Lox Salon and into what is now an open, airy space awaiting the arrival of children. The Basement Community Art Studio, co-owned by Lox Salon owner Brynn Gonzalez and Jennifer MacIsaac, holds its Grand Opening this Friday night. It’s certainly a different concept than any currently offered in downtown Knoxville.
Brynn, who has owned and operated Lox Salon for nine years grew up in Knoxville. She describes the changes she’s seen in the Old City in the last nine years as “dramatic.” She said, “Not much was happening down here nine years ago. When Crown and Goose opened it helped.” She looks forward to the completion of the changes in the streetscape on Jackson, feeling it will make the Old City feel more “pedestrian and family friendly.”
Jennifer is from Knoxville, but has recently lived in Portland, Oregon. I had to ask what would bring her back to Knoxville from a place with such a high cool factor. She said Portland is, indeed, exciting and also kid-friendly. She talked about bars and restaurants making accommodations for children – like separate play rooms. She also said it is expensive there and hard to break into the arts scene. She’s excited to return to family in Knoxville and to the energy and excitement she senses here. Her ties to the Old City are deep. As an eleven-year-old, she and a friend would ride the bus downtown and shop at Big Don’s. She met her husband in Old City Java.
The two have been friends for many years and when Brynn visited Portland, Jennifer took her to one of the many art spaces for children and the wheels began to turn that would lead the two to open this business. Brynn saw how much her nine-year-old enjoyed the experience and began thinking of the former Blue Slip space. She thought they might do something similar to what she’d seen in Portland. Jennifer was just as excited and immediately developed a business plan. Brynn confessed, “this is going to get her to stay, and that was my goal all along.”
The two point out that Knoxville has very little that is similar. For downtown children there are many special events and scheduled story-times and the like, but very little in the way of activities provided for them on a daily basis. You might find art classes for children at various places – and those may be offered at The Basement – but no where else offers daily open studio time with materials provided for children to do as they please.
Open studio hours will be offered from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM each day, Tuesday through Friday and Noon to 5:00 PM on Saturday. Little artists will pay a fee of $10 per hour and will have complete access to all manner of materials from paper and scissors to canvas and all the paint they would ever need. Discounts of $2 are available to any young artist who brings in a bag of supplies to add to the collection. You find a list of needed supplies here.
Bins filled with all manner of other materials from wine corks to Styrofoam peanuts and pipe cleaners are available. Another station offers yarn, crochet, sewing and everything needed for making fiber art. Imagination is really the only creative limit. Large tables sit throughout the room waiting.
The space will also be available after-hours and on Sunday and Monday for birthday parties or for artists in need of studio space. Live downtown and want to try a bit of painting, but don’t have the space in your condo or apartment for all the materials? I bet you could work out something. Art classes also may be offered in the evenings. If you are an artist interested coordinating classes or other activities, you may want to contact them.
Jennifer has a Montessori background that prepares her for overseeing such a free-ranging, creative space filled with children. She’s bubbling with ideas such as a project of the week to offer suggestions to those who might want it. She also has a large Pinterest collection of art projects she maintains and expands daily.
The two noted that, while the business will be very child-directed, it isn’t just for children. Adult events and classes will be offered in the evenings. Some might be of a more common variety, such as the wine and painting sessions offered elsewhere, but there will be some very unique classes such as shoe-making and jewelry making for adults. Artists can lease the space out for large projects in the after hours. The possibilities are very broad.
The Grand Opening on Friday will include open studio time for children free-of-charge. The Pinklets will play their fun music. The art of Helen Cargile will be on display and refreshments will be available. In terms of available activities for children during First Friday, I can’t really name many others, so bring the children down.