A recently retired St. Albert Public School arts teacher isn't leaving the education world behind quite yet as she's opened a private art studio in Stony Plain, where she plans to offer a multitude of programs and classes.
Judy Smallwood, who spent the first nine years of her career at Sir George Simpson Junior High School, followed by 13 years at Bellerose Composite High School before her retirement last spring, says opening her own studio has always been a goal.
“I definitely always wanted to do something like this, but didn’t think it was possible," she said.
Built from the ground-up by herself, friends, family, and contractors over the past eight months, Creative Hearts Arts Studio is a little larger than a single car garage standing in the backyard of Smallwood's Stony Plain residence.
The studio's name stems from her "art mantra," Smallwood said in an interview. “To me, art is my heart."
"Everything about art has to do with being kind to people; about sharing your gifts; about networking with other people; making everyone that comes into your life comfortable; showing love – all those things.”
The construction process, which also involved her hiring Bellerose construction teacher Jesse Kerckhof, “was tough," Smallwood said. "There’s a lot of things that aren’t available, plus it’s a real shortage of guys to do the work," she said.
“I’m pretty handy, and my family and friends are pretty handy, but none of us really knew what we were doing, so (Kerckhof) became the general, and he did a lot of the work too, and a lot of my friends and family came out and he taught us how to build it,” Smallwood explained.
They managed to build the structure before the beginning of September, when Kerckhof had to return to teaching full-time. Then, Smallwood and her partner took on finishing the inside of the studio, which included installing a heating system, and putting varnished oriented strand board in for the walls and flooring.
When it was all said and built, Smallwood celebrated the studio's grand opening on Oct. 15 with a barbecue for friends, family, and fellow artists, and of course, by creating some artwork, she said.
“I was so focused on the construction and the nuts and bolts of it, that I actually had this feeling of anxiety right before I decided to have my grand opening because once I have the grand opening, it’s out in the universe now," she said.
"I said I was going to do all of these things, now I have to do them.”
The programming she plans to offer includes after school classes for junior high and high school students; adult lessons; seniors classes since the studio is accessible by wheelchair; custom paint nights; professional development retreats for teachers and businesses; and a mother's group.
For after school classes, Smallwood says the studio has space for about eight students, and all the art supplies they could dream of.
Smallwood, a mother of three herself, explained that the inspiration for an arts group for moms stems from her own experience of being a stay-at-home mom, and the lack of time she had to be creative.
"I’d set up either in the studio or in my house … and set up areas where the kids can play, while the mothers can have time to be creative," Smallwood said.