SOUTH BURLINGTON — Davis Studio relocated to a much larger space on Shelburne Road in South Burlington this past spring, after 13 successful years at the corner of Pine and Howard Streets in Burlington’s South End. Founder and Director Teresa Davis seized an opportunity to acquire a property that would both enhance her businesses’ existing offerings in art camps, classes and gallery, and accommodate her broader vision for what Davis Studio could be for the community.
“We purchased the property, so that sense of ownership — of permanence and control — was important, as was having everything under one roof,” Davis said. At her previous location, Davis said, the gallery was in a separate building from studios, and even those studios were scattered and separated by other business spaces.
“This offers a unified, all-in one feel,” Davis said. “And both free on-site parking and the location itself is much more convenient for many of my customers, especially those coming for Williston, Hinesburg or Essex.”
The main building, which once housed Country Curtains, includes 4,200 square feet of space, which is twice the space of the previous location.
Describing the full property, Davis said, “It’s a 1.6-acre property with lots of yummy green space. It’s set back from the road and is very quiet — you don’t hear traffic noise.”
The property includes three efficiency apartments in a carriage house and small a-frame building that generate additional revenue.
“It’s like tiny-house living before tiny houses were cool.”
Davis said creativity is the core of the enterprise. To help fund building renovations at the new site, she launched a successful Kickstarter campaign promoting the new Davis Studio as, “a community center for creativity.” That campaign surpassed its targeted goal of $30,000.
“All spokes come from creativity,” Davis said. “The tag line for our classes is, ‘foster your creativity,’ and for our recently opened café, Starving Artist, we use the tagline, ‘feed your creativity.’ So while we are primarily a visual arts studio, we also have some drama and theater arts, stop-motion animation, sewing, academic art based in curriculum, creative writing — and all center around creativity.”
If the move helped Davis get everything under one roof, it also opened the door to a variety of new offerings under that roof. While the business still offers a gallery and a broad range of summer and holiday camps, and classes for students of all ages, the expanded Davis Studio now houses a licensed pre-school, a café and a brand-new “adventure playground” in the park-like back yard. The studio also offers space for special events, including business team-building art parties.
Programs at Davis Studio emphasize putting students in working artist space.
“All of my teachers are teaching artists, many of whom do their art right here,” Davis said. The faculty includes between 20 and 25 teachers.
An artist herself, Davis said, “I consider myself a mixed-media artist. I do a lot of acrylic painting, but I like to put other materials into my work. I work two-dimensionally and three-dimensionally. An endless amount of variety and possibility keeps me experimenting, exploring, and discovering.”
Criteria to show at the Davis Studio gallery include being a local Vermont artist showing affordable work. Many of the studio’s working-artist teachers also show their work at the gallery, with the next teacher show slated for December.
The Starving Artist Café is currently open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday. The café is headed up by chef Jonathan Davis, Teresa’s son, who brings experience from stints with Mirabelle’s, Vermont Cookie Love and the former Fresh Market.
Weekdays the café offers a full menu of soups, salads, sandwiches, breakfast offerings and hot and cold drinks with counter service. Customers can enjoy food on-site or to go. Brunch features full table service. Davis hopes to gradually expand staff and hours.
“If you just want great food in an artsy atmosphere, this is your place,” Davis said. “Menus include dishes with artists’ names, so you might even learn about art appreciation, have a meal that’s artistically plated, have art on the wall. It feeds your creativity.”
The licensed pre-school offers half-day sessions, with 20 students currently enrolled in the two-day program and another 12 in the three-day program.
The newest addition to the Davis Studio facilities is a brand-new playground, based on the adventure playground model.
“I worked with Tara Gravelin on the playground,” Davis said. “I came up with the basic ideas and concepts, she helped finalize the design and execution of the playground, which was just completed in early September. It’s very unique, and designed to engage children’s imagination, creativity and sense of discovery.”
While the playground is ideal for the pre-school’s use, Davis emphasized all ages are enjoying it. The playground also includes an outdoor stage, which she envisions having community engagement potential, from plays to recitals to puppet shows.
Davis said she’s actively expanding special events offerings. “We always did birthday parties, but we’re building a full menu, with everything from baby or bridal showers to wedding rehearsal dinners, or small holiday parties,” she said. “Coupled with the café — we can cater the event in-house — it’s got big potential that didn’t really exist at our old space.”
While children’s programs are strong, Davis said, “I think we have something for absolutely anyone of any age here and any ability. We really specialize in beginning adult, or what we like to call ‘rusty adult’ — someone who was maybe into art in high school or college, but hasn’t done anything in 25 years and would love to come back and try it. We’re (a) welcoming, nurturing, non-intimidating atmosphere where people can create freely without judgment or pressure.”
Davis said the space is already developing the “community-center vibe” she envisioned. She gave the example of, “a family where maybe Mom takes (an) adult class, Dad brings the son for ‘paint and pizza’ night, the preschooler comes for half-day pre-school, and Grandma comes for fused glass — and they all come together for brunch on Sunday.”
Given its location and an ability to deeply engage the community, Davis said her new venue offers even more possibilities — down the road.
“For now, we’ve taken on a lot,” she said. “And I’m very happy.”
Davis Studio is located at 916 Shelburne Road in South Burlington. The telephone number is 425-2700 and the website is www.davisstudiovt.com.