It is always exciting to walk into a new store for the first time. It is also extremely rewarding when you have been able to watch and participate in the long, hard, and fun process of making that shop, that business come into being.
For these and many other reasons, I was so thrilled to walk into Larkin Arts for Harrisonburg’s First Fridays celebration on September 7th. Valerie Smith and her husband, Scott Whitten, who co-own Larkin Arts, along with Gallery Coordinator Lynda Bostrom, were putting on a Faculty Art Show, featuring the artwork of local college and university professors. After getting updates on the progress of their renovation, and walking by the space during that process (with covered windows and signs of construction always visible), I hoped the inside of Larkin Arts would be worth the anticipation.
As soon as I walked into the door and entered the fine-arts supply store, I was quite stunned by how cozy, warm, and comfortable everything was. From the display racks, to the tables and shelves, to the furniture for sitting and perusing a book or gazing out the big windows onto Court Square, to the artwork on the walls, everything made you want to linger.
But, being a celebration and all, there was much more to see. In addition to the store, Larkin Arts also has two gallery rooms, in which paintings, sculpture, and pottery from were on display. With beautiful hardwood floors, high ceilings, and warm lighting—and of course the collection of excellent art—the gallery, though small, also supplied plenty to view and contemplate, accompanied tonight by live music from a violinist and cellist.
In addition to the store and the gallery, Valerie and Scott are offering studio spaces for rent to local artists; since Larkin Arts is equipped with a kiln, they can even accommodate people working with ceramics. I had the chance to look into a few of the studios and meet the artists. All five of the studios in Larkin Arts are currently rented, which will certainly add more dynamic energy to Larkin Arts as a center for fine art and community—as will the art school, providing classes to kids and adults.
It was a wonderful experience to see the hard work of Valerie, Scott, Lynda, and the many friends who helped build (literally) Larkin Arts paying off—and to see the joy in their faces as more and more people came through the doors.
– Justin Van Kleeck