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Interview with Mia Clark of Art House

May 9, 2007

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I caught up with Mia Clark who is opening a crafty new place called Arthouse. The space is located on 1506 Hendricks Ave, between the Jaxcore Skate Shop and Jackrabbits, in San Marco. The shop isn’t all set up yet, but the opening night is set for Friday, May 25th from 7pm till whenever.

Artists and craftpersons wishing to put things on consignment can contact Mia through the Arthouse myspace page here.

On to the interview…

First off, who are you and what do you do?

My name is Mia Clark. I’m a “Creative” who has been earning a living working as a Librarian for the Jacksonville Public Library’s Main Teen Department. Before moving to Jax around five years ago, I lived in Atlanta, Georgia for nearly ten. One of the most exciting things about living there during that time was experiencing the urban explosion that took place following the 1996 Olympics. Though moving to Jax was quite a culture shock, it has provided me with another opportunity to live in a cultural scene that feels like it is about to burst. Add to that, what’s really exciting to me is that on this go-around, I hope to be more actively involved and to even add to the local flavor.

What kind of things will the store be carrying?

The concept for ArtHouse was inspired by Savannah’s own shopSCAD. Like shopSCAD, ArtHouse is a smallish “gallery store” featuring local art & design objects which will be displayed using a personal collection of vintage and contemporary furnishings and accessories. In this sense, it is not at all like a traditional white-walled gallery space. The shop will carry all sorts of handmade artwork including paper crafts, prints, illustrations, paintings, wall hangings, clothing, purses, jewelry, household goods, you name it. I really don’t want to control the type of artwork that is in the shop, though I do want it to have a certain feel-good quality that adds to the visual poetry. I’m unapologetically interested in creating an atmosphere that reeks creativity and style without too much heavy social commentary. In other words, it’s designed to appeal to all of the senses for the purpose of enjoyment alone.

arthouse2.jpgWhat is you inspiration for this place?

Artists, designers, shops (especially Savannah College of Art & Design’s shopSCAD, Atlanta’s Lakewood Antique Market, Providence, Belvedere, and City Issue, and San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace), magazines (Domino, Fiberarts, Dog Eared), and Art Basel, to name only a few.

What are your short term and long term goals for the space?

On short term basis and for the sake of sanity, I’m referring to ArtHouse as “an expensive hobby” that I hope will be a lot of fun. However, in long term thinking, I’d love for the shop to act as a fair art market that will help to grow the creative community. Add to that, I think it would be really cool if the shop became a recognizable and even sought-after spot on the Jacksonville map. Beyond that, I’d love to even do some Art Consultanting and Styling by placing artwork in living spaces.

Where the shop is located is by a music venue, a music store and a skate shop. How do you feel about the locations neighborhood? Do you forsee opportunities for synergy with these other shops or is the fact that you are surrounded by other small independent businesses enough?

The latter…As far as the location goes, the funny thing is that over a year ago I remember driving by the shop and thinking “That would be a cool space for a shop” before I was aware that I wanted to open one! I love the location, (neighboring Brunet-Garcia, Jack Rabbits, and the San Marco Library), and I think it appears to becoming part of an emerging Jax design district. Add to that, the guys at Jaxcore Skate Shop and the building residents are friendly and supportive. As far as synergy goes, from what I gather, the Jaxcore guys and I are supporting each other through our similar business visions. We both have full-time day jobs with a “hobby shop” on the side. We’re also totally doing business for the love of it and the idea that we would like to blend our personal and business lives into one. In other words, though it may sound crazy from a business perspective, the ultimate goal is not the bottom line. Instead, it is to build an ultimate lifestyle which includes learning how to support ourselves through our passions and creative efforts.

Speak to any problems you think you may encounter with the space. I know that having a full time job and a store can be a challenge. How do you envision dealing with this?

You know, it doesn’t take much mental digging to reveal an ugly list of could-be problems. For starters, everyone knows about the sewer and water drainage problems in the San Marco area. The good news is that the shop sits high and is well insured. Also, most of the art will be off of the floor. So, unless we experience a major act of God, we should be alright. As far as balancing full-time work with the shop goes, I feel that juggling work and grad school for over two years gave me great practice. Only this time around, I’m completely self-directed AND doing what I love. Otherwise, I’m not kidding myself, I know I’m gonna be tired, scared, and excited for who knows how long. The good news is, I think that the outcome will generate energy instead of draining it.

How long have you been involved with the craft / design scene in Jacksonville at large? …and in what capacity?

arthouse1.jpgIt depends on who asks, right? As far as being involved in the local scene goes, I’d say I’ve been holding a fairly low-key position. Still, I’m aware of what’s going on around town and especially downtown at JPL, Art Walk, Burrito Gallery, MOCA, TSI, Opaq, Assemble, CREATEjacksonville, Inertia (of course), and through the Cultural Council, to name a few. I also have a local group of good art-buddies like Marie Myers, Christy Adams, and Caroline Daly. In all honesty, beyond that, I think that if I was more involved, I would never have done this because of being overwhelmed and too afraid to take the risk.

Has working in the library’s Teen department allowed you to merge the crafts community and your library programming? How has these worked out?

Absolutely — Working at the library has allowed me to develop my art & design skills outside of the personal realm. I have had a blast developing and exhibiting programs and media for our department including special projects like “Obsessions & Confessions,” the Post-it walls (pure rip-off, I know), the Eye of Horus, Book Arts, Found Poetry, Poetry Jam, etc. As city people, we also have to market and promote our services. This aspect of the job forced me to learn how to design for public spaces and interests, as well as how to sell our programs. Add to that, when it comes to working with teens, I love their energy & spirit and I’ve enjoyed following trends and basically researching and creating library-related stuff around a lot fun themes.

Assemble is a rather similar craft store in the works. What’s your relationship to them? How do you feel about Assemble? How do you feel your niches will differ?

You know, it’s funny, you sent me Joey and Mackenzie’s info the very same day that I learned about Assemble from their urbanjacksonville.info blog. Actually, I had a nice long phone conversation with them a couple of weeks ago. It didn’t take me long to admit that when I first heard of them I thought “Crap! There’s another like-business opening and its way cooler”. Then I realized that’s silly thinking and I will not buy into some lame idea that we will be competing or that Jacksonville cannot support us both. Add to that, though may be somewhat similar, our market and focus is different. As is, ArtHouse will have some craft works but, it is not exclusively craft and education-oriented…At the end of the conversation, it felt great to know that we really are interested in the same ideas revolving around creating and supporting the creative community in a non-competive form which includes our own businesses. Thanks for the interview and all that you do Josh.

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