The woman behind Darbytown Art Studio and Canal Quarter Arts
Three years ago, if you’d asked Jeannie Ellis whether she would have ever owned and operated an art studio, she would have responded with a chuckle and a shoulder shrug. Asked whether she’d ever own TWO, she would’ve flat-out thought you were a comedian. Fast forward to the present, however, and Jeannie is exactly that – an owner of two wonderful studios, not only featuring some of her own work, but more than 30 local artists as well.
Two and a half years ago, Jeannie opened Darbytown Art Studio – named for the small neighborhood near downtown Fredericksburg – at 241E Charles Street. Initially, she had intended to use the space primarily for herself as her growing hobby – at the time, oil-on-canvas paintings – had outgrown the location in her basement and she wanted a larger area with more natural light.
As has been the case historically, Jeannie mentioned the new space and its use to her hairdresser, and like any good salon or barbershop, news about it got around town. Van Anderson was the first artist to join Jeannie, but rather than be paid rent (Van had offered to do so), she told him they could split the cost of utilities. One by one, local artists continued contacting Jeannie, not only to utilize the space as a studio – think of it as a WeWork for artists – but to also showcase their pieces. Before they knew it, the space was at capacity (25 artists in total) and Jeannie had a waiting list of others who wanted to be a part of the studio. Canal Quarter Arts, therefore, wasn’t only born out of desire, but out of necessity.
Located at 1517 Princess Anne Street, Canal Quarter Arts – formerly the home of Billingsley Printing – became Jeannie’s second studio. With her ever-evolving ideas, Jeannie looked at the space and thought that it would also be a good location for a coffee shop, but she didn’t know the first thing about running one. Following another serendipitous encounter, Jeannie was introduced to MJ Stone, who owns and operates Agora Downtown Coffee Shop with her sister, Andi Stone Chitty. The women hit it off, and, just over a month ago, Canal Quarter Arts and Canal Quarter Coffee by Agora opened their doors to the public.
The location is a wonderful art studio with a coffee shop inside, showcasing yet another example of local businesses building synergistic relationships. Lawton Clites, a well-known, local ceramic artist, has his studio at the recently-opened location as well and will also offer pottery classes to the general public.