Retired artist Virginia "Ginny" Starke is hoping her new art gallery will create a gathering space in the heart of Fulton's Brick District.
Arthur Studio & Gallery will have a series of soft opens until its grand opening after Labor Day. In addition to an art space, Starke plans for Arthur to host live music, spoken word poetry, a book club, an art market, sewing and much more.
"I want (Arthur) to serve as more of a community space than anything. I like being able to be the head honcho of something I'm so passionate about," Starke said.
The gallery is named after her brother, who battled drug addiction and committed suicide at 30 years old. Starke has been considering ways to honor her brother for many years.
"In the '80s, I was a librarian in Pulaski County, and one day I kept trying to type 'author' but I just kept typing 'Arthur.' I went home that evening and looked at the calendar and realized it was the one-year anniversary of his suicide," Starke said.
Starke is originally from Frankenstein, Missouri, and lived around the state before she began her career in art. Starke explained she did not get into art until the early 1990s and worked 10 years as a muralist from coast to coast. She operated her own mural business in New Orleans before moving to Texas.
"When my first granddaughter was born in Houston, I went for the birthing and never looked back," Starke said.
She then hopped from Houston to Galveston, Texas' art district, and owned three art galleries over 16 years. Her daughter eventually convinced her to leave Galveston for her health and safety and move in with her family. Starke spent two years living in San Antonio and then, eight months ago, relocated to Fulton, where four of her sisters lived.
"It was nice to be back by my sisters because my children were so busy in Texas they could hardly make the time for me," she said.
While in Galveston, the art in Starke's galleries primarily centered around women and women's issues. She explained her art at Arthur will be more surrealist and absurdist. However, Starke aims to have the gallery consist of mostly outside artwork.
"The only art that I want to have in here is just the murals I'm working on. I have some of my art up now just to give the room some life," she said.
Jennifer Taylor works as the assistant director at Arthur and is managing the process of receiving nonprofit status. Taylor said she plans on being the space's successor once Starke is gone.
"It's always been my dream to run a nonprofit, and I'm passionate about mental illness," Taylor explained. "I've run a (Facebook) page for mental illness for the past eight years, and it has over 25,000 people all over the world on it. So now, I have an opportunity to do something in person, and I'm excited to do this."
Taylor explained, once Arthur obtains 501(c)(3) status, she will begin to work on grant writing and hopes to find a grant that can fund a salary for herself and an assistant. Taylor currently works another full-time job and has been helping on a volunteer basis so far.
"I help on my days off, but my time is limited," Taylor said. "We need volunteers to help."
Starke needs volunteers to help her finish the studio in time for her desired grand opening after Labor Day.
She hopes to construct a stage for live music.
"I'm looking for volunteers to help out with opening and working a certain amount of hours and just to keep an eye on things," Starke explained.
Starke also would like to have teachers volunteer to instruct art lessons at the studio. She added she has never wanted to be an art teacher because she is not sure she has the hands-off approach a teacher should have with their students.
"I was always afraid I was going to whack someone upside the head with a paintbrush. I haven't done it yet," Starke said.
Starke said, while donations will be accepted, there will not be a donation jar sitting around because she does not want the space to be about money. She said she doesn't want anyone to pay a dime to use the space she's creating.
"That's what I want to do in the memory of my brother is to create a space that people can come in. I don't even care if they have money or not. I don't want to put any kind of monetary value on what goes on in Arthur," Starke said.