By Jayme Eng / Photography by Craig Stocks
Jessica Ball grew up in Peoria, Illinois and for as long as she can remember, she loved to paint. She would paint with watercolor sets and paint-by-numbers oil paints, even before she reached kindergarten. “I remember one time I drew on the walls with an ink pen that never came up,” Jessica said with a smile.
Growing up, Jessica wanted to absorb everything about art as much as possible but when she reached her sophomore year in high school she found that she had taken all of the art classes her school offered. “I was panicking, because I didn’t want to stop.” During this time, the Waterfront Gallery had opened where artists were gathering. One of the artists was holding an art class and Jessica decide to take the figure drawing class at age 16.
Jessica was the youngest one in the class and she wasn’t sure if perhaps she was too young, but having that experience helped fuel her passion for art. “Being in that environment, with artists and getting invited to opening art shows was really life changing.”
But after high school, Jessica stopped painting and doing art continuously. Despite not completing a college degree, Jessica continued to make art on her own time. It wasn’t until about three years ago that Jessica started getting back into painting. She began doing murals and commissions for people. “For about two years straight I wasn’t doing art for myself.”
During this time Jessica had been dreaming about a place where she could have “people who didn’t have the support or felt that they needed improvement” come in and create art on their own terms. “I wanted to let people know that you didn’t have to cross that finish line of a degree to create art.” Jessica and her husband began looking for places to make her dream a reality, but had no luck.
“We decided to wait a year and then check again,” Jessica said, “to see if something opened up and if I was serious about my idea.” In response, Jessica wrote down everything she wanted. “Sort of like a mission statement.” A little bit later, Jessica and her husband found a space in the Studios at Sheridan. “It was more than I ever asked for. I even have a space for my own studio.” And thus the Art Garage was created.
Jessica is very glad she found this place and loves the ability to be “plugged right into the art community” as well as the ability to create her own art. “I can really concentrate on me and my art, though I do still have commissions.”
She is also grateful for the location. “We are in an area where we don’t have to promote art, and the artists here are very willing to encourage and to teach others and learn themselves.”
Her daughter, Olivia, is also very involved with Art Garage. Since the beginning of this summer, Olivia has been helping her mother during the workshops and keeping the area clean. “She loves and wants to help out. It also keeps her from using all the supplies.” Like her mother, Olivia loves to create art and likes to work in all sorts of mediums. “I encourage Olivia to go whatever direction she wants with art.”
Jessica also likes to allow the people that come in to create their own works of art. The Art Garage is very much community based. Jessica likes to keep the structure very organic, basing the classes that are taught and special events like Ladies Night, Toddler Time, and Date Night by the community input. “If we put in a watercolor class, it’s because people have been asking for it. I like to try to listen and have a balance between the craftier side of art and the finer arts.”
As it turns out, Jessica has found this to be a rather difficult task. “The only problem is to keep everyone happy,” which is why Jessica likes to switch up classes. “This week we learned about monoprinting and last week we did air dry clay.” Jessica’s goal is not to make money with the Art Garage, but rather to create a supportive place where people can make art and do so with encouragement and assistance.
“We have guest artists come in and teach classes and I even teach classes.” Jessica doesn’t want to tell people what to do however. “I try to give them the basics and the tools to do so and let them take their own stand on it.” And it’s been very successful; people of all ages ranging from elderly to toddlers have shown up to participate in classes and workshops the Art Garage provides.
To learn more about the Art Garage, visit the Art Garage’s Facebook page or art-garage-studio.com. To learn more about Jessica Ball and her artwork, visit http://jessica-ball.squarespace.com/gallery-3-jessica-ball-art-studio/. To contact Jessica, call (309) 231-2511.