BURRILLVILLE – Tucked away in Harrisville’s Clock Tower building on Tinkham Lane, two local women have opened a business they hope will serve as a beacon for area artists, and a place to create, display and support the work of local talent.
Ellie Forte and Carol Cove opened the doors to Art Box Studio on Monday, Nov. 1, an all ages community space that hosts a gallery and retail shop featuring local vendors, along with workshops and classes. The business held an official grand opening over the weekend, with guests invited to stop in and see what the studio has to offer on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 6 and 7.
“We started the business based on the idea that we wanted to have a community space where kids and adults felt comfortable to come and create on their terms,” said Cove.
The business partners met when they became neighbors in Harrisville roughly a decade ago, and each brings a diverse background to the new endeavor, with history as creative entrepreneurs.
Forte, who obtained a bachelor’s in fine arts in 1991, is the owner and designer of Glass Sea Rock Tree. The business, started for years ago, sells art made from nature via local shops and Etsy, with Forte creating pieces from items she finds outdoors including sea glass, beach stone, driftwood, seashells and twigs. Forte also worked in the costume jewelry industry for more than 25 years, and says it was her lay off during COVID that first prompted conversations about starting the business.
Cove attended The Art Institute in Boston, Mass. and has worked with ceramics and illustration since the late 1990s. After years of working in the restaurant industry, she started a designer cupcake business around eight years ago pairing her creations with beers at local breweries.
“Both of us are versed in many art mediums,” Cove said.
The women also have one other important thing in common: teenage children with an interest in art. Schools and camps for young artists, they note, tend to be expensive and are not widely available in the area.
At the Art Box, artists of all ages will have a social space to create, with staff on hand to help if it’s needed. The studio is situated in a section of the former mill building right next to Jesse Smith Memorial Library, in a room covered in windows and the accompanying natural light.
The business owners also hoped to form connections with other local artists, prompting the launch of a gallery space inside the new studio. The gallery will feature a new artist each month, with Chepachet-based painter Stacey Graham to be first among them, with around a dozen of her works now hanging in the space.
The pair put a call out for local crafters and artists looking to sell their work, and are now offering products made by 20 different vendors in their retail shop, ranging from cards and home decor, to bath products and locally-made jams and jellies. Vendors will change keeping the space fresh and applications for consignment will be accepted on an ongoing basis.
“It’s more of a hobby for some people and life happens,” said Cove. “If they fade out we want to make sure we still have things in stock.”
“I want to support people because I know how hard it can be,” said Forte, whose work is now also featured in stock. “There’s not enough places to sell your stuff.”
Workshops and classes have also begun, with Thanksgiving crafts and cupcake decorating sessions for kids, as well as adult wreath-making classes scheduled in the upcoming weeks. On November 28, they’ll host a Christmas tutu class, and in December, they’ll lead crafters in creating, “Cookies for Santa,” trays. Most classes come with a fee with pre-registration required.
They’ll also hold “Parents Time Out,” nights next month offering crafts, holiday movies and a pizza party for children age 8 and up, to provide time for parents to finish Christmas shopping. Space for the events is limited and registration is required.
But the main impetus for launching the business was the open studio, with time offered for those looking to be creative outside of the house on a drop-in or membership basis. Walk in prices are $15 for adults or $10 for children, students and seniors for a day; and memberships cost $110/month for adults or $60 for youth and seniors, and come with crafting supplies.
The studio features weekly craft themes – such as Day of the Dead Sugar Skulls created this week – or artists young and old can simply opt to work on their own creations.
At the grand opening this weekend, the owners offered membership specials and showed off their new digs at 180 Tinkham Lane. A craft creating garland made of fall leaves will be offered free of charge and light refreshments will be served.
Artists who might want to feature their work should contact the studio at (401) 568-5000 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To keep up with the schedule of upcoming classes and events follow the business on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheArtBoxStudioRI .