A handful of storefronts in Old Town Greenwood are dark and empty, devoid of activity.
But artist Teresa Taylor sees potential in the vacant spaces. She envisions a communal art space where she could teach painting, drawing and other art techniques.
Visiting instructors could offer classes on ceramics, sculpting, sewing, cake decorating, jewelry-making, photography, yoga, or any other creative outlet.
An artisan market would give her students and other local artists a place to display and sell their work.
Taylor has a dream of starting the Artisan Marketplace and Studio.
At a glance
Artisan Marketplace and Studio
What: A 2,100-square-foot space where all types of adult and children’s classes could be taught. The other half of the space would be dedicated to displaying and selling the student and artisan artwork.
Proposed location: Old Town Greenwood
Cost: $15,500 to lease, renovate and outfit the space.
To help her get the business venture off the ground, Taylor has embraced the grass-roots form of venture capitalism called crowdfunding. Supporters are invited to donate money to her cause, providing $20 here or $50 there, to give her the start-up money she needs.
“I’m really into getting people to learn art. Especially with kids, and the cuts that schools are making, they don’t always get art,” she said. “It’s something you just look at and think, ‘People will donate money?’ It blows my mind. People who have donated are just giving it to me.”
Taylor has been a traveling teacher for the past 12 years, focusing mainly on the southside. As owner of You are the Artist, she has conducted classes in restaurants, cafes, craft shops and churches — any place that offers space to teach.
Over the years, she’s developed a following, and she’s found that it’s more and more difficult to find spaces to partner with.
“The restaurants are great, because we love to sit and eat before we paint. But you can’t go to a restaurant on Friday or Saturday because they’re busy,” she said. “That’s my biggest challenge, finding some space on the weekend.”
With a central location and studio, Taylor could reach more people and make it easier for her students to find her. She could have a regular schedule, with established classes where people could come and learn when it fits their schedule.
Saturday mornings would feature children’s instruction. Taylor has taught at Calvary Lutheran School for the past eight years in an after-school activity and is particularly interested in offering more arts opportunities for kids.
Pat Myers took a Taylor class after seeing an ad in the newspaper. The Columbus resident had never really done anything artistic before but wanted to learn. After one class, he was hooked on painting.
“She made it so easy and so effortless. She makes it fun, and pulls you right in. She’s an excellent teacher,” he said.
Myers drives to Greenwood once a month to take a class from Taylor. With a more regular schedule, it would be easier to take more.
“Right now, she’s going around the different restaurants. We’re just going from here to there to everywhere. With a designated area, that would be wonderful,” he said.
But Taylor also envisions a sort of collective art education center. While she focuses on painting, another community expert could provide knitting, sculpture or cooking classes.
The other half of her vision is as a marketplace for artists. A complaint she often hears from her students is that they have nowhere to put their art or get it out to the public.
Taylor has shown in the past at the Art Bank and has a few pieces in the Starbucks in Southport. But she understands the difficulty in simply showing the work that she’s created.
“They love to paint, they love creating, but their houses are full. They have no room for their paintings. They’ve given their families all they can take. They want to continue, but they need an outlet,” Taylor said.
The marketplace would give her students a central location to meet. That would bring more awareness to the quality of art being done on the southside, artist Debra Sawyer said.
Sawyer, a student of Taylor’s, works in acrylics, watercolors and other paints on a variety of surfaces. A studio and marketplace would bring new customers to see her work.
“If you can touch something, if you can see the art hanging, that only increases the chance of a sale,” the Indianapolis artist said.
Taylor, a Southport resident, has become enthralled with the Old Town area of Greenwood. The corridor of Madison and Main streets offers some unique shops, restaurants and businesses, but its development is in its infancy.
She believes her shop could be another step toward revitalizing the area.
“It reminds me of a little Nashville. I would love to get a spot there,” she said.
Taylor has consulted with about 300 of her students to see if this was something they’d be interested in renting booth space or taking lessons. The response has been good, and she’s decided to move forward with her project.
Connie Curran has taken lessons from Taylor for about 18 years. From her, she learned to perfect her method of painting glass, putting unique images on wine glasses and plates.
An artisan market would allow the eastside Indianapolis resident a greater chance to sell her goods, which in turn will help support her art interest.
Currently, trying to get exposure is a difficult and often futile effort, she said.
“I set up at a craft fair last weekend and sold basically nothing the whole time. Hopefully, this would put my work out to the public six or seven days a week and help me with exposure,” Curran said.
Taylor had read about crowdfunding in the newspaper, how an Indianapolis brewer founded his business entirely by people donating small sums of money. As she paid more attention to it, Taylor found that a lot of people were relying on dozens of tiny investments to get projects off the ground.
With her connections in the art community, Taylor felt this was her best option to raise the capital needed to start her business.
Using Facebook and a website, she has spread the word to as many people as possible. Her goal is to raise $15,500. That would allow her to lease a building for six months, add new flooring, repair damaged walls and add signage.
The amount also would allow her to buy tables, chairs, easels, shelving units and various class supplies to keep costs down for students.
So far, response has been encouraging. One donor gave $250, with others chipping in $25 apiece. With more people learning about it, Taylor believes that she can achieve her goal. If she doesn’t, she will have to re-evaluate her plan and find a new way to fund it.
“It’s been my dream just to have a place. I’d be able to help people make money for themselves and enrich people’s lives with art,” she said.