MEET Steph Whalen! Steph is a prolific and inspirational Orillia artist who operates an amazing downtown Orillia studio that offers weekly workshops and events that facilitate creativity. I am always amazed at her enthusiasm and talent as an artist!
READ ON to discover MORE about her art business and artistic practice ....
Tell me about The LOFT. What workshops & events do you offer, and what are the challenges and joys of running an art based business?
Just under 2 years ago I was given the opportunity to share studio space with a local photographer and we agreed that it would be less complicated for people to refer to the space if it had a name. It is a lofty, open room, so we called it The LOFT. I assumed the lease in 2017 and began building various programs to encourage creativity and art based learning for kids and adults. It started with social painting parties (paint night) and I now offer private parties, team building events, specialty community programs, birthday parties for kids and weekly classes for kids ages 6 and up. This fall I added weekly adult classes to the calendar and I am currently working on a revised format so that I can teach the Art Night social painting classes with less of an environmental impact.
There are many challenges. Orillia is a small community. My first job is to continually create fresh, interesting content so that my regular participants have something to look forward to. If I recycle my projects too often, people get bored and maybe move on to something else. There are always new faces up at The LOFT, but it is the regulars who keep me on my toes. The content itself is an entirely different beast. I have established an understanding that all levels of beginner or "non creatives" can complete each project in a really short period of time. I mean, we are painting full sized landscapes in 2-3 hours with little to no knowledge of any of the basic elements. Each project needs to be broken down into 3-4 basic stages, all teachable within the timeframe provided, while trying to maintain a sense of integrity within the art. That is probably my biggest challenge, but also one of the most fulfilling aspects. When I am not creating the projects or instructing the classes, I am building the website, creating marketing materials for social media, responding to emails and phone calls, organizing private events, managing individual event details and scheduling the months to come. I am not typically a very organized person, so this has been a great element in my personal growth and professional development. I have my calendar made up to the end of March now. That actually kinda freaks me out, to be honest.
The joys all arise from meeting these challenges and continually growing. The biggest is the ever growing number of people who report to me that they had no idea that they were capable of making something that they could be proud of. When someone walks into the studio claiming that they can't draw a stick figure and two hours later the same person leaves with a 16" x 20" painting of some beautiful birch trees and a sense of accomplishment, it reassures me that this is a good thing.
Where may people discover upcoming events and workshop information?
You may find all of my classes, workshops and events at www.theloftorillia.com and many updates on facebook business page The Loft Orillia.
You are a prolific artist and work in several mediums. Tell me about YOUR art. What are you currently working on?
I was that kid who wanted nothing but to be an artist when she grew up, but I quit making art just after I finished high school 20 years ago. I only gave myself permission to start again about 5 years ago. Since then, I've been busy teaching myself to paint & trying to figure out where the art fits back into my life. The experience of being an art instructor has been instrumental in my own practice and self discovery as I've forced myself to break down each and every stage of my personal art making. As a person who works primarily from instinct as opposed to learned method, this has taught me to question my work, scrutinize my methods and work far outside of my usual areas of comfort. I have dabbled in abstracts, landscapes, florals and illustrations working with images from nature and stories from my imagination. All of these pieces bring me a feeling of contentment when they have been completed, but the illustrations and quirky pieces of storytelling are what really light me up. I am working on some really fun stuff for my Spring show at the Orillia Museum of Art & History, and I am super excited to share it when it starts to come together.
What inspires you?
Go back to when you were 5, when everything was possible; when tilting your head to the side created a shift in reality that changed the entire landscape; when an imaginary friend was not a sign of illness. Sit in that space in time when you knew that all of nature was unified and only love and imagination held true power. This, and the memory of this is what always inspires me.
Art Business Love
SO much admiration & LOVE to these ART Businesses!
Steph Whalen - The Loft Art Studio
Coach House Gallery - Judy Fontyn-Sugg
Hibernation Arts - Molly Farquharson
The Shadow Box Art & Framing - Lucy McGarvey