Reimagined venue becomes The Golden Fish Art & Play Studio

Reimagined venue becomes The Golden Fish Art & Play Studio

Now includes Sweet Art Emporium

By Page H. Gifford

With the proposal of a new artisan trail, the growth of the Fluvanna Art Association (FAA), and the increase in local artists who exhibit across the U.S. and have their work in private collections, the profile of the arts is rising in Fluvanna County.

For two years The Golden Fish has served as a retail venue for local artists, vintage items, toys, and art classes. Charlotte Broxon and Erika Mitchell have revamped The Golden Fish and added the Sweet Art Emporium on Route 15 in Palmyra, with the goal of promoting the visual arts and teaching others to enjoy creating art.

Mitchell said that the idea behind Sweet Art Emporium came about after a visit to The Golden Fish. She and owner Charlotte Broxon had become friends and Broxon had been selling Mitchell’s sterling silver jewelry through her shop for the past two years. Broxon asked Mitchell if she wanted to split the space and use it as a studio for Mitchell’s metal work. Broxon had decided to close her retail business and focus on teaching art instead.

“I was concerned that I would no longer have a place to sell my work in Fluvanna and knew there were more than 100 local artists and crafters in our county facing the same difficulty,” Mitchell said. “I had dreamed of having my own art and candy shop since I was a little girl, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to fulfill that dream. Charlotte and I work really well together so we plan to use this opportunity to bring Fluvanna arts into the spotlight.”

Broxon and Mitchell are both former art teachers, so in addition to providing a platform for local artists to exhibit and sell their work, they plan to offer a variety of art classes through Broxon’s studio as well present art shows, tea parties, and book readings to get the community involved in art activities. Mitchell will also be presenting artisan-made local candy so there will always be something sweet in store, hence the name Sweet Art Emporium.

“I have really enjoyed working with the local artists, but realized that I did not have the time to make The Golden Fish retail business successful. My customers and artisans have been amazing, and I wanted to give back to this supportive community,” said Broxon. “Having Erika, a former Golden Fish artisan, adopt the mantle of local art retailer made the decision easier to devote my time to teaching. I couldn’t have asked for a more devoted business woman to take over the helm of local art sales.”

They will be featuring the work of local area artists. Mitchell, a member of FAA, designs her jewelry, which is branded Enchanted Elm. The pieces are made primarily from sterling silver and semiprecious stones. Her work is delicate yet bold, deftly manipulated into scroll work and spirals.

“Currently my jewelry designs are very feminine. I recently became a grandmother and found my designs became influenced by my reflections on motherhood,” said Mitchell.

About 10 years ago, she started taking oil painting classes from her friend and mentor, abstract artist Jean R. Sampson. Influenced by her sunset series, Mitchell began to paint abstract landscapes.

“In my paintings I am very focused on the texture of the paint on the canvas and the melding of colors as they touch and interact with each other,” Mitchell said. “Both my jewelry and my paintings will be presented at Sweet Art Emporium, as well as the work of 25 other local artists.”

Mitchell attended Virginia Commonwealth University to study crafts and acquired degrees in fine arts (metal smithing) and art education from Northern Arizona University. She had been certified to teach art in grades K-12, as well as special education.

Broxon is a visual arts teacher and taught in the public schools in both Albemarle and Goochland Counties. In the art studio, she is continuing both her fun project-based classes for young people as well as her home school art courses for children 6-14 years of age. These courses will be announced through her Facebook page, The Golden Fish Art and Play Studio. Broxon hopes to have paper schedules at various locations around the county by the end of February.

“I encourage students of all ability levels to sign up. There is a lot more to art than how well you can draw. I have a background of working with students with special needs, as well as working with gifted students, and am happy to accommodate different learning styles,” said Broxon.

“My plans for the play studio include addressing the sensory and creative needs of young children. The studio will be a place where small groups of children can sign up to play in a specially prepared environment with their parent or caretaker,” she said. “Activities will include seasonal and holiday themes as well as availability of basic building toys, role playing toys, puzzles, books, and a child-sized kitchen during sessions. Special items such as a large light board, sensory bins, a water play station, and sand table, will change weekly.”

Broxon added that the play studio is loosely based on the educational philosophies of the Reggio Emilia approach and the Waldorf and Montessori methodologies, and operates on the premise that play is an important developmental activity.

Broxon believes that allowing creativity to flourish gives children and even adults who have never experienced hands-on art an opportunity to learn and enjoy art in a non-formal art program with the goal of stimulating of the creative mind. Ultimately they can learn creativity through exploration of an idea, which makes learning art more of an experience rather than a discipline.

Sessions last an hour and 15 minutes, with an estimated five to seven children in a group. For more information about play groups and fees per session or monthly packages, contact Broxon on Facebook at The Golden Fish Art and Play Studio.

Local artists interested in consigning their work and others can check regularly to see what art experiences are available by contacting Mitchell through her Facebook Page at the Sweet Art Emporium. All are welcome to visit to see artists’ work and find out more about upcoming classes at the combined grand opening party with The Golden Fish Art & Play Studio on Feb. 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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