In 2012, wife and husband team Ellen and Tom decided to take a plunge and bring their 20-year idea into real life. As hobby-artists, the Flynn’s expressed their frustration for years over a common hurdle that many amateur artists experience – a lack of space to create. For years, Ellen recalled, they vented their frustration, lamenting that it was “too bad there isn’t a place you can just drop by and work.” From this dissatisfaction came a wonderful solution: the Flynn’s would fill the void and create` a community art studio dubbed “The Art Establishment.”
Solving The Amateur Artist’s Hurdle
Ellen and Tom Flynn are both life-long amateur artists. Ellen specializes in black and white film photography and dabbles in ceramics, while Tom works specifically with oil painting. As parents of three, over time the Flynn’s art was placed on the back-burner. They lost the space and time to dedicate to their art. The Flynn’s figured that they couldn’t be alone. They believed this thorn in their sides must be felt by other artists too. Thus, in order to bring art back into their life and the lives of local artists, they bought a property at the edge of South Bethlehem, began a two and a half year, self-done renovation of an old building on Broadway, and officially opened The Art Establishment in March of 2015.
From its inception, The Art Establishment has worked to be a space for people who aren’t professional artists, but still have the desire to create their own art. The space is for artists of all backgrounds. They offer work space for painting & drawing, photography, pottery, and printmaking. On top of this, they provide gallery space for artists to feature their work as well as classes, event rentals, and parties for a reasonable price.
It’s All About Flexibility
One of the most welcoming aspects of The Art Establishment is its emphasis on access to complete flexibility for its artists. The space is known as a “community drop-in studio,” where artists have the ability to rent professional grade equipment on an hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly basis. They cater to the needs of artists from all across the spectrum from the occasional artists who drop by for an hour or two to more active artists like their 9 current monthly pottery renters.
On top of all of this, there is no required membership fee so artists can come and go as they please. The Art Establishment is truly a welcoming and family-like community. They want artists to enjoy themselves and pride themselves on offering space and classes to artists of all ages and skills. Ellen expressed how proud she is that they are able to “cover everybody” with their small business.
Working With A Special Needs Community
Since opening, The Art Establishment has formed a close bond with the local special needs and medical rehabilitation communities. This year, every week they offer two different classes designed specifically for those with special needs. They feature a general art class for children and young adults with special needs as well as an acrylics painting class for teens and adults. Both classes welcome students from any level of proficiency and help provide supplies. So whether a student is 5 or 60 or has never picked up a paintbrush, The Art Establishment offers classes taught by instructors happy to work with anyone no matter their needs.
In addition to the classes, The Art Establishment also promotes community involvement for its special needs artists in the form of a gallery show specifically for those artists to display their work. This annual event is known as “Special Visions: A Special Needs Art Show.” The gallery show is open for a month in The Art Establishment first-floor gallery room and features amazing artwork of all types from local special needs artists. This year’s Special Visions show ran through March and recently ended. The event will be featured again next spring.
Ellen said that she feels honored that The Art Establishment is becoming so well known and appreciated in the local special needs and medical rehabilitation communities. Working with the special needs community is a great love and passion for her and Tom. They are excited about the prospect of The Art Establishment becoming more involved in that community in the future. Ellen said she would love to see the space be as helpful as possible to any special needs individual who wants to create art.
An Opportunity For Local Artists To Blossom
The Art Establishment has quickly become an integral part of the local visual arts scene. The space is popular among amateurs specifically because it offers not just a place to create their art, but also a place to show and possibly sell it. The Art Establishment displays their artists’ work around the year in different shows and around the studio. These pieces are then available for purchase.
One of The Art Establishment’s monthly renters, Sharon Ohnesorge, gave a first-hand account of the opportunities the studio grants her. Ohnesorge is a Bethlehem local who creates ceramic pieces by hand. She spends hours at The Art Establishment crafting her pieces. The studio gives Ohnesorge the chance to continue her passion. She has been featured in previous shows at the studio. Additionally, Ohnesorge will be showing and selling her pottery at the 52nd Annual Fine Art & Craft Show in Downtown North Bethlehem on Mother’s Day, May 14, this year.
In the past few years, Ellen and Tom Flynn have shaped a unique space for artists all around the South Bethlehem community to have the chance to express themselves. Whether your medium is print or ceramics, whether you are young are old, whether you’ve just begun to discover your artistic side or you are an old pro, The Art Establishment is for you. The Flynns successfully solved the hobby artist’s biggest challenge – having a flexible workspace whenever you need it so that your art will never be on the back-burner again.
For more information on classes, pricing, and more, visit The Art Establishment online at http://www.theartestablishmentstudios.com/. Be sure to check out the upcoming events posted. For example, there is the “Teacher and Resident Artist Exhibition” opening reception on Sunday, April 23 from 2-5pm. This show will highlight the amazing work of The Art Establishment’s resident artists and teachers. The opening reception event will also feature live music from local musician Steve Brosky!