by Billi Casey
"My goal for the Art Garage is to have a place where everyone can enjoy creating something without being intimidated by formality, price or expectation." Jessica Ball, owner
Are you dealing with kids who are bored just two weeks into summer vacation? Tired of "girls night out" always being in a bar? Will your head explode if you have to go on yet another date at the movies? The solution to all of these problems lies in one place - The Art Garage at Studios on Sheridan. Located at 929 N. Sheridan Road, the Art Garage is a hidden treasure for accomplished artists and novices alike. There are a wide variety of offerings, from drop in classes, toddler time, date night, ladies night and private classes available. Projects vary from week to week, some leaning more toward art and some more toward Pinterest type crafts. Depending on the type of class it might be taught by a visiting artist or by Jessica Ball, the owner of the Art Garage. Actually she might prefer the term led to taught. While her classes are very organized, the are not structured. She has a wonderful ability to "feel out" which individuals want her input on art techniques and rules and which ones want to work and create on their own. The thing that she does have for everyone across the board is enthusiastic encouragement. I can attest to this after witnessing her genuine joy over an owl that I painted that, well, let's just say it's not destined to hang in the Guggenheim.
It's not surprising that her dream of opening a studio that makes art accessible to everyone is something that she saw through to fruition. She remembers having a drive to draw and paint, sometimes on the walls, as young as two years old. When I listened to Jessica talk about her mother, who was a nun until she got booted for attending a peace rally and who exposed Jessica to many and varied people and experiences and her gregarious father it makes perfect sense that she is such a friendly woman with so many interesting thoughts and stories to talk about. Growing up she took any art related classes that she could but art wasn't generally considered a career choice in the "what are you going to be when you grow up" phase of her life and in her twenties she took about a ten year break from art when it seemed to lose it's purpose for her. That thankfully ended one day in church when a woman who had quit her job as a nurse to open a bakery was looking for someone to paint murals on her storefront windows. Jessica volunteered and created scenes for the woman until it was discovered that the sun melted the chocolate and the windows had to be tinted. But the spark was relit and Jessica went on to do commissioned work for a roller rink, a church, nurseries and children's rooms, a library, her class reunion and silent auctions for benefits among other things.
When I asked her about her process she told me that she loves the problem solving it takes to get an idea from her imagination on to paper. Tools, plus skills, plus creativity, the same process it seems to me that moved the Art Garage from her imagination to a perfectly suited building surrounded by other artistic types. This location, along with the fact that her space includes not just the classroom downstairs, but also a studio upstairs, is more perfect than even the "art garages" she had envisioned as her plans were taking form. She has returned to painting and drawing for herself and has created some wonderful pieces (one, in particular, that I covet - my birthday is in January, Jessica). She strives to maintain a balance between her art, her family and running her business. As I look at her paintings, hear about the projects that her husband, Kevin, has helped her work on, see her daughter, Olivia, a frequent visitor to the studio and take in the laughter and sense of accomplishment of the people who come to nourish their inner artists at her classes, I can assure her that she is accomplishing this and so much mores.
Olivia was there the afternoon that I talked to Jessica for this article and overheard me ask "If stranded on a deserted island what one book, movie and musician's work would you want to have with you?". Jessica had to ponder this for a while, but not Olivia. She knew immediately that she would want The Beast in the Bathtub by Kathleen Stevens, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Johnny Depp version) and the music of Julie K. It took Jessica a little longer to come up with The Art Book - Phaidon Press, Life Aquatic and David Brubeck's music...................plus paints, brushes and canvas', of course.
For more information check out The Art Garage at Studios on Sheridan on Facebook and her website http://jessica-ball.squarespace.com/