This art studio is home to many types of art.
Some artists paint; others draw. Some use floor tiles as their medium; others use fabric. But all come to the studio for the same reason: fellowship.
Every Monday night and Tuesday morning, a group of artists gathers at the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatic Center on East Booker Dairy Road. They sit around the large table in the multipurpose room, each working on an individual project.
No conversation stays between two people. Others often butt in, politely, with suggestions or jokes. Inspiration and advice are traded frequently. “How’d you do that?” is a constant refrain.
Artist Judy Boyette started the group about two years ago. She found out SRAC offered pottery classes and realized the center was home to more than just exercise classes and sports leagues.
“It started out in the kitchen with only five people, and we had a small group,” Boyette said. “And over the years, it has grown to where now we’re in the large multipurpose room.”
About 25 people participate in the group, and all artists are welcome regardless of skill level, she said.
Boyette has a teaching background, which means she is a resource for the other artists, who often ask her how to do certain techniques. “Judy knows everything,” one artist said during a recent session.
“If I don’t know, I’ll find out,” Boyette added.
Deborah Dawe of Clayton has loved art since she was a child, but she let it go for years. “When my children went to high school is when I got interested again. And once I got into it again, I couldn’t stop,” she said.
Dawe loves coming to the studio because each artist has a particular style and work mode. During a recent session, she was painting a tree on floor tiles while looking across the room at what others were doing.
Dawe said she could be working in her studio at home, but she loves coming to Smithfield for the fellowship. “It’s exactly what I was looking for,” she said.
Maegan Hewett of Princeton often comes Monday nights with her mom. “We just really wanted to have something to do together,” she said.
Hewett said working on art is a good stress reliever, and the studio offers a chance to learn from other artists. Her piece last week was a painting of a tree with a rainbow background. “It’s just a good time to get together and help each other with creativity and art,” she said.
Lori Hamilton of Smithfield was drawing and coloring a portrait of a woman that was inspired by a photograph she found online. She comes to the studio for the same reason.
“It’s just fun, and you do get inspired,” she said.
On Tuesdays, Boyette said the group goes out to lunch together, trying different types of food each week. Artists pay $100 for six months of access. The money, about $4 a week per artist, pays for use of the SRAC space, including storage.
Being around other artists also validates the importance of art, and that can be hard to find, Hamilton said. In addition, she likes that the group is open to everyone. “Everybody’s welcome, no matter what level you are – even if you’re not at a level,” Hamilton said.