By Betty Lee
With digital art taking over the planet, traditional art is left in the shadows as something with a nostalgic feel. That’s why freelance artist Quincy Potasnik has been on a mission to keep studio art alive, especially in her community. Working as a mobile studio in the states of West Virginia and Ohio for the past six and a half years, she has been in search of a place to sink her roots.
Quincy says, “Everywhere I looked, every place I found, nothing seemed to fit what I needed,” explained the frustrated entrepreneur. “I needed a space with a good location in a thriving area. I needed a place to thrive. I’m an Appalachian artist who is bursting at the seams, excited to share my talent with those who want to learn. That’s hard to do on the road.” In May she says, “I was driving up the main strip through Gassaway…a route I take often…and I just so happened to look to my left and there it was.”
Potasnik says she stopped the car and ran across the street to a brick red painted store front with large windows. The sign was written in huge letters “for rent” and had a phone number on it. Immediately, she called. No one answered so she left a message. It didn’t stop her from pressing her face against and peering through the glass, anxious to see what was inside.
“It was perfect! One giant room, beautiful refurbished wood floors, high walls and ceiling, and oh, the natural light! It was simple but exactly what I needed. I am positive I left my face print on the glass that day. I left my mark: I would be back.”
A few more rounds of phone tag and finally, she was able to speak to the owner of the building, Marjorie Foster, who, coincidentally, runs a successful music school right beside the location. Apparently, the building had set empty for six years. Potasnik felt a peace come over her about the whole idea. With the pandemic shutting down many small businesses and prompting many people to stay out of public situations, it still never crossed her mind to back off from her dream.
“I know a miracle when I see it. I passed that place a million times and NEVER did I see that sign. I know it was meant for me to look to my left that day. I am not a risk taker. I’m skittish when it comes to diving deep financially, especially in such an incredulous time. And I’m a thinker…an overthinker to be exact. I’m good about talking myself out of anything if I feel vulnerable. But this…it just seemed the right thing to do. The Good Lord always leads us where we need to be at the right time. It’s not a chance if you don’t take it. So I did. I took it.”
After about a week, an agreement was made, and The Tiny Sparrow, Art Studio & Happy Place had a place to call home. Potasnik, with the help of her grandmother, sister, friends, and her new husband, Bradley, has worked steadily on getting it ready for the public over the past month and a half. As a trial run, she taught three successful classes, which produced very satisfied customers. The building will be used as a working studio where the artist will paint commissioned work. It also houses a small gallery where area artists can showcase their work for exposure and to sell.
“Each month, I will present one or two chosen artists to display their pieces. I welcome paintings, drawings, pottery/ceramics, blown glass, stained glass, jewelry, sculpture, fiber arts, and whatever kind of art that can bring light and life to the community. It’s all about art and bringing people together. “Creating Happy People” is my motto. I think that says it all.”
Although her main focus is her new space, the mobile studio will still be available for paint parties and fundraisers. The giant classroom will be used for guided paint parties and special classes and workshops. There is enough room for social distancing. It is also handicap-accessible. Potasnik wants the space to be available for people who do not get out of work until after 5 p.m.
“My sister once vented to me how frustrating it is to want to go somewhere local after work but most small businesses close early. I’m an evening person so having the studio open later is easy for me. That way, everyone has a chance to come in for a visit. Some folks can’t drive at night so I will be teaching a guided paint class on Tuesday afternoons. Friday night paint classes will be all the rage! I encourage everyone to try it once, even if you think you have no talent. It will change your life.”
The Tiny Sparrow, Art Studio & Happy Place is located at 614 Elk Street in Gassaway. Starting August 10, the studio will be opened Tuesday through Friday from 2 to 8 p.m. Tuesday guided paint classes will start at 3 p.m. Friday classes start at 6:30.
All art supplies are included for guided classes. The studio is available for painting birthday parties, private groups, and special occasions. Canned sodas, coffee, and water will be available for sale. For more information call/message 304-549-8203, Facebook message, or like The Tiny Sparrow, Art Studio & Happy Place on Facebook. Keep watching for upcoming classes!