On Thursday, March 12 from 4:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m., Carpe Artista in Smyrna will be writing their next chapter with the ribbon cutting and opening of a new facility located on Hazelwood Drive.
The new facility allows the organization to increase their ability to teach more arts to all ages in the community. What began as a question written on a napkin about artists creating a place to teach and build community has grown into a thriving organization that has and continues to have a significant impact on the economic and cultural development of the city.
As their website states, Carpe Artista provides artistic training, leadership development, and community engagement opportunities for artists in Smyrna, North Rutherford County, and surrounding areas. This new facility will provide two art studios, five music studios, an assembly space, and much needed office space.
“For the last nine years our excellent teachers have been teaching in less than ideal spaces,” said Founder and CEO, Ron Alley. “And we have only been able to handle 50 to 75 students per week. With this new facility, we will have the capacity to provide art instruction for between 1200-1400 students each week.”
While they had looked at a possible academy space when they first launched Carpe Artista and had begun negotiating a rental on it, the space for Carpe Cafe came open shortly thereafter and they turned their attention to Front Street. They knew they wanted more than anything to make a difference with their presence in the Historic Depot District.
“We have loved being in the Depot District as our main concentration,” added Alley, “however… in November of 2018, I finally decided it was time to look for dedicated teaching studios for our academy training program. As I started looking at available spaces in the area to rent we found out that the space [we are moving into] was about to be under new ownership….So, we started … negotiating in March of 2019.”
The space they are moving into was originally opened as Pepperoni’s Playhouse, an Italian restaurant. Then part of it was built out in the ’90s as a salon concept called International Salon. As a Salon, it was divided into 14 individual spaces with French doors and windows and an inside hallway dressed out like a streetscape. They will be keeping the streetscape feel, and have made the 14 workspaces into offices and classrooms. They gutted the 1800 square foot commercial kitchen, turning it into an assembly space.
All of their music and art classes will now take place at the new location. Music offerings currently include piano, voice, electric and acoustic guitar, ukulele, bass guitar, drums, percussion, violin, viola, electronic keyboard, harmonica, banjo, and accordion with plans to expand as they grow. Art offerings are drawing, painting, sculpting, mixed media, and photography. The space will also give them the opportunity to begin to offer a few new camps during the summer, like specialty art camps and rock camps for younger students.
“The new academy space does three key things for our organization,” says Alley, “First, it allows us to really accomplish the student training part of our mission. We not only train the students in their art skill but we also train them in our core values … Character, Calling, Craft, and Community. We really want to train our students to use the power of their arts to make the place where they live a better place. Second, it allows us to fill out our original business model by expanding our financial base. And lastly, it allows us to expand the economic reach of the arts district as we help the new owner of the Plaza at Hazelwood bring life back to another part of the town that has been somewhat overlooked since Walmart moved out in 1996.”
They are definitely not moving their base of operations, and community investment, away from the Depot District, but rather have massive plans to expand it.
“We are making plans to turn our old art space at 101 Front Street into a pottery center as we do some interim renovations there,” said Alley. “We are offering more in the area of musical theater on an ongoing basis now as well. We will begin to offer more weekend specialty workshops. In addition, the new space will give us the opportunity to begin to expand our offerings into the technical arts as well, including audio, lighting, video, graphics, and more.”
Their interim upgrades to the 101 Front Street Space are to enhance it as an event space, with plans to begin a massive mid-year fundraising campaign to do a major renovation to turn it into an art center for the Depot District, which will be part Carpe Cafe, part arts event space, part training center. Once these 101 changes are made, the current cafe space at 115 Front Street will have a full commercial kitchen added in the building and it will be turned into their culinary arts training center. The front area of the building will be reworked into a more upscale specialty restaurant run by the students.
Carpe Artista will be sharing their new space with a church, which will use the assembly space facilities on Sundays for worship, and the studios for their kid’s classrooms. It just continues their desire to build community and shared spaces.
“We also support and coordinate festivals, concerts, shows, and other cultural events in the Depot District,” added Alley. “These events engage local businesses and industry to partner for cultural development and promote the creative arts to the community. Additionally, Carpe Artista provides arts education support and services to several public and private schools and organizations in Smyrna and North Rutherford County.”
What began as a question on a napkin, is now what their website describes as, “a thriving organization that provides arts instruction for hundreds of children and adults each year, attracts thousands to its festivals, and has acted as the catalyst for the revitalization and restoration of a two-mile-long stretch of heavily-traveled roads that has been dubbed the Bridge-to-Bridge Project.”
Carpe Artista Arts Training Facility
1334 Hazelwood Drive
Smyrna, Tennessee 37167