Central Oklahoma might not be famous as a hotbed for artists, but keep your eyes on Paden, OK because local artist Leslie Anne Martin and her business, Artland Studios, LLC, might very well change that. Growing up in rural Oklahoma, art provided an outlet, for a younger version of herself, to express her feelings at what she describes as “a really dark time in my life.”
She recognized how lucky she was to have parents willing to invest in a 45-minute commute into the nearest town to where art classes were offered, so she could learn and create. “I founded Artland Studios to provide art services to my community and surrounding communities through art lessons and monthly craft events for both children and adults.”
Ultimately she’d like to host artist residencies, where an artist can visit her studio in Oklahoma for a period of time, use the facilities and equipment, create, and conclude the residency with an art exhibition in the local community.
“It would be a great cultural experience for both the artist and the community,” she says. “It would be wonderful to see the community come together, enjoy the art, and possibly feel inspired to make some artwork of their own.”
Making Art Available To Rural Families
Martin started her studio in October of 2018 as a sole proprietorship until March 2021 when she formalized her business entity and became an LLC. Right now, she is the only employee but is inspired by the opportunity to expose art to rural families that get limited exposure to the artistic process and provide a different outlet for youth to express themselves and be recognized for their accomplishments through local art shows.
She’ll be using the Nav grant to help create a classroom space in the studio so she can turn her studio into a classroom, where students young and old can share and create. “I know this will be an asset to my community,” she says, “and am eager to put my dream into fruition and be able to provide art opportunities to Paden and the surrounding areas.”
Starting A Business Is Never Easy
Like many other businesses, Martin has experienced her share of challenges as she works to ignite creativity in her community.
“It takes a lot of money to start a business. It’s taken me three years to raise enough money to acquire the equipment necessary to make my art,” says Martin. “Then, when the pandemic hit, it really delayed my whole plan to start offering art lessons.”
Fortunately, paint parties for local groups of people businesses, churches, arts in the park events and other large, open spaces allowed her to share her talent in a safe way and helped her raise money toward renovating her studio to start the creation of a classroom space, but as the cost of construction materials continues to rise because of the pandemic, she realized she would be short on capital to make the improvements. Which is why she applied for the Nav grant.
What’s Next For Artland Studios?
“My goal is to complete renovations and open by the end of January so I can offer lessons to ages K-12, as well as adults,” says Martin. “I’ll be hosting a monthly “Creative Kiddos” event for parents that want to bring their children ages 0-8 for natured-based craft activities. There will also be monthly craft events for both children and adults,”
Luckily, living in a small community the locals tend to support the area’s small businesses. The town she lives in regularly spotlights local businesses to let the community know about what’s happening and the services that are available in their area.
When asked if she had any advice for other small businesses she said, “Keep at it. It’s hard to start a new business and more expensive than I had imagined. For this industry, I think many artists would rather be in the studio than doing paperwork, but paperwork comes with the territory of many aspects of being an artist (RFPs, commissions, and sales). It’s good to learn the ins-and-outs of a business. Also, if you feel there is a need and a target market to bring arts to your community and you feel the call to action, then my advice is to pursue it.”
We wish Martin and Artland Studios the best.
This article was originally written on September 21, 2021.