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Business offers unique opportunities for artists

Kelly Walker, owner of The Studio: A Place for Learning, stands in front of several of her paintings inside the business. Walker has a following of students in the area and teaches painting classes weekly. Katie Demeria/Daily

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Janice Murray of Middletown, left, and Joy Podmore of Front Royal, right, pose with paintings they created in instructor Kelly Walker's weekly classes. Both will now be able to take a variety of creative classes at The Studio: A Place for Learning, which opened Friday. Katie Demeria/Daily

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Kelly Walker, owner of The Studio: A Place for Learning, speaks to a crowd gathered for the business's ribbon cutting Friday morning. Formerly a co-op for artists, the building will now operate as a teacher co-op, allowing artists a space in which to teach others. Katie Demeria/Daily

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By Katie Demeria

FRONT ROYAL -- Joy Podmore of Front Royal said she could not paint when she was younger -- not in high school or college.

But now, she does oil paintings. She even donated four to the Phoenix Project, and was told they sold quickly.

The Studio: A Place for Learning had a ribbon cutting at its 105 East Main St. location Friday morning. Owner Kelly Walker has been at the location for the past eight years, including when it was recently an artist co-op.

A Place for Learning is something unique, Walker said, because it is an art teaching co-op. It will operate as a space in which artistic-minded teachers can offer classes in various subjects, ranging from jewelry making to welding for sculptures.

Walker will also be offering her own painting classes, and said she has developed a following of students, including Podmore and Janice Murray of Middletown, who both said they were never given the opportunity to paint before.

"That woman could teach a skunk to paint," Podmore said of Walker.

Walker described the teaching co-op as the "next step" for the art studio.

"It's something different -- a lot of people have creative talents and no outlet to share them with others," Walker said.

She added that renting out the space is affordable, at $25 for the first two hours and $10 for every additional hour. Already she has around 10 teachers interested in participating.

The prices for students range, as well. Some classes are free, and others vary between $10 and $35, depending on whether or not materials are provided.

For students like Murray, painting has never been a very big part of her life, but when she started three years ago she began to appreciate it as a relaxing activity. She frequently paints pictures of her grandchildren.

"It's rewarding," Murray said. "Every week, I learn something different. No class is wasteful."

"But I did have a hard time finding a place nearby," she added.

Walker said the studio fills an artistic void in the area, giving an outlet to both teachers and students. She envisions it becoming a tourist attraction for the town.

She has more teachers looking to participate every day, she said, one as far away as Atlanta, Georgia.

"I think a lot of different people will want to come here, especially since we're so close to the city," she said. "I'm trying to create partnerships with bed and breakfasts, and come up with some package ideas."

There is enough interest in art and the idea behind the co-op, she pointed out, to keep a variety of classes going, as evidenced by the success of the artist co-op. The calendar changes each month, depending on who is interested in teaching.

Classes for kids are offered as well, including a "Famous Painters" art camp, as well as a cupcake decorating class.

Other classes are already sold out, and some open houses are scheduled for August -- on Aug. 16 the studio will offer an origami open house.

"People shouldn't be scared to try new things," Walker said. "Everyone can learn to paint."

To learn more about the studio, go to http://www.thestudioforlearning.com.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com

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