by Sarah A. Peterson-Camacho
As the weather warms and the spring arts season kicks into full bloom, Scarab Creative Arts in downtown Fresno welcomes the return of ArtHop after its yearlong hiatus, offering up a variety of art exhibitions, classes, and other events, in addition to the ArtHop’s first-Thursday receptions. Kings River Life reached out to Scarab’s founder Maggie Boyajian Courtis to get the scoop on what the one-of-a-kind creative space has in store for Fresno’s bustling arts community.
KRL: What is the Scarab Gallery’s origin story? When was it founded, and by whom?
Maggie: I founded Scarab Creative Arts in 2020.
My first job after college in 1978 was making stained-glass windows at Scarab Glass Works. In recent years, I had thought it would be pretty cool if my former employers retired and sold their building, and they did! My husband, son, daughter-in-law, and I purchased the building and launched Scarab Creative Arts. We used a variation of the Scarab Glass Works name since the glass arts center had been there for fifty years and was somewhat an iconic business in downtown Fresno.
My vision was to create a center for a shared space studio where members could work in many different media. I had belonged to a shared space clay studio a few years ago, but since I dabble in a variety of media and find that diversity more interesting, we planned for Scarab to be a creative space for most processes. We currently have 20 artist members. Most work in clay. Some work in other media along with their ceramics, and one student focuses on glass.
Our arts center includes an attractive gift shop where members market their creations. We have a lot of fun organizing the displays of our pieces in the shop on antiques. Antique ladders hold planks for shelves, antique tables, and old agriculture field boxes mounted to the exposed used brick wall are an interesting setting for our unique, one of a kind, pieces.
The public area of the arts center is a large studio equipped with tables and pottery wheels, a classroom, and a large spacious gallery. The members only areas include another studio equipment space with additional ceramics equipment and supplies, individual storage spaces, a kitchenette, our kiln room, and a dedicated work room with exhaust venting for members to work on processes requiring use of a respirator. We also have office and storage spaces in the back area as well as a small selection of stained-glass materials and supplies available for sale to our glass students. Occasionally a shopper comes in looking for glass for a repair project, and we’ve been able to accommodate their needs, but we aren’t stocked for sale of glass to the general public.
KRL: What kind of events has the gallery hosted?
Maggie: Kia Cotton runs her business, ArtLab559, out of our building. She has helped people host lovely paint parties for baby and wedding showers, adult and children’s birthday parties, and team building events for businesses and professional organizations. Kia also teaches the children’s art classes and has a private student every other week who is sponsored by Make A Wish Foundation. Kia also hosts paint party date nights.
Other members of our shared space studio, Raquel Ewalt, Hannah Desch Witter, and Heather Hubbard, have hosted date nights with a pottery wheel experience and hand building pottery parties for groups.
Scarab Creative Arts participates in the monthly first Thursday downtown ArtHop sponsored by the Fresno Arts Council. Each month we have an opening reception for the artists who are featured in our gallery.
KRL: Which local artists have been featured?
Maggie: Since ArtHop reopened in April 2021 after a yearlong hiatus, Scarab has had particularly interesting gallery shows. We’ve featured local artists creating paintings in oils and acrylics, weavings, metal mobiles, and mixed media. Our 1st annual juried competition gallery show in March brought in work from thirty local artists working in clay, photography, painting, quilting, wood turning, stained glass, basketry, and doll making, all interpreting the theme “The Sierra.” Next year’s March themed show will be interpretations of the theme “Community.” In the short period we’ve held gallery shows, we have featured many local artists: Julai Wolli Scott, Peter Janzen, Lorraine Peters, and Gallery twenty-five members Carol Tikijian, Robin Dolarian, Cynthia Carter Cameron, Joan Sharma, and Michele Sani. Our annual members show each December kicked off in 2021 with works by Ani Chamichian, Barbara Rogers, Dawn Hart, Elizabeth Schenkel, Hannah Desch Witter, Heather Hubbard, Lizbeth Reyes, Maggie Courtis, Marina Popov Holiday, and Raquel Ewalt.
Our March juried show prizes were awarded to Terrance Reimer, Sharon Matson, Corbin Callaway, Roy Martin, Linda Sloan, and Scarab member Dawn Hart.
KRL: What kinds of classes does the gallery offer?
Maggie: There are a wide variety of classes for children and adults at Scarab. On alternating Mondays, Kia from ArtLab559 holds morning and afternoon children’s classes where she features an artist from history, teaches an art concept, and gives the students an opportunity to participate in a creative experience using a different media each week.
Adults can come to Scarab to learn to work in different aspects of working with clay and glass in beginning and intermediate classes taught by member artists. One member teaches bi-monthly grounding classes. We also have had classes in mosaic, macrame, painting on silk, shibori, cookie decorating, drawing, ikebana flower arranging, puppetry, jewelry making, quilting, and mixed media. Our classes change regularly as teachers decide on new class offerings. Currently the website shows classes through June. The class listings for July through December will be published in mid-May.
KRL: What kinds of art and wares does the gift shop feature?
Maggie: The gift shop has functional and decorative ceramics, resin paintings and functional items, handmade greeting cards, painted silk scarves, painted rocks, art quilts, and paintings in encaustic, oils, and acrylics. Our member, Lizbeth Reyes, markets her Lion and Soul flower therapy products in the gift shop. We have a few items made outside of our studio to complement our studio artist pieces, such as handmade soaps, hand-carved wooden serving utensils, plants, candles, and garden tools. The inventory changes weekly as studio artists produce new items.?
KRL: How does the Scarab Gallery participate in ArtHop?
Maggie: Scarab is recognized as one of the premier ArtHop venues. We look forward to hosting gallery exhibitions with works by Corky Normart, Samantha Lazcano, David Jon Christenson, Quinn Bowman, and Heather Hubbard through the remainder of 2022.
Besides the rotating shows with various artists, we have plans for annual calendared events in our gallery. Each December will be our members’ show. In January the members’ show will remain in the gallery and our ArtHop experience will be displays and demonstrations of some of the classes coming up. Our annual March show will be the themed juried community show. We will be dark for the hot, slow months of July and August each year.
KRL: What has the community’s response been to the gallery?
Maggie: The community has responded very favorably to the high-quality art in the lovely and lively setting at the Scarab gallery. We have become a regular stop for the serious ArtHop visitors looking for a creative art exhibit carefully curated by Scarab members, led by Heather Hubbard.
KRL: How has the pandemic affected the Scarab Gallery?
Maggie: Starting a new business in 2020 had challenges. Fortunately, Scarab Creative Arts as a shared space studio wasn’t as impacted by the pandemic as other facets of the business. Artists still came to the spacious studio and were able to work without being in close proximity to one another. We all masked and isolated when there were exposures. There were some isolated cases of illnesses suffered by members, but each time no others were stricken with the virus. We all took great care in following recommended protocols to protect our little artist community.
Unfortunately, we were set to open to the public in December of 2020 for gift shop sales, but that opening was held back when the community lockdowns were announced a few days prior to our planned opening. Our educational component and gallery shows were also put on hold for about six months.
KRL: What upcoming events/exhibitions would you like our readers to know about?
Maggie: We are excited about giving back with an annual event. Our 2022 event is scheduled to take place at ArtHop on May 5th. We are having a silent auction with items donated from our local arts community. The proceeds will go towards efforts in Ukraine. Scarab member Marina Popov Holladay is from Ukraine. She has been producing unique pins, necklaces, and earrings in the blue and yellow/gold colors of the Ukrainian flag. Donations from these items is being donated to Ukraine relief organizations Marina has chosen after discussions with her family and friends in Ukraine about where the greatest needs lie. We have plans for events each year to benefit targeted causes.
For more information on Scarab Creative Arts and its schedule of upcoming events, please visit www.scarabgallery.com.
Local Artists Support Ukraine
Ukraine native, Fresno ceramics artist Marina Holladay, has been working to support relief efforts for the besieged people of her homeland. Since the Russian invasion began Marina has found concrete ways to help the people of Ukraine.
Marina is planning a silent auction on May 5th at the monthly downtown Fresno Arts Council event, ArtHop. It is to be held at Scarab Creative Arts, her shared space studio. Guests at ArtHop that evening will have a chance to bid on pieces donated by local artists.
Hand-made jewelry in the colors of the flag of Ukraine representing the clear blue sky and golden fields of wheat are also available at Scarab Creative Arts and other local retailers, included Clay Mix and Root General.
Scarab Creative Arts is at the corner of Broadway and Divisadero in downtown Fresno. This ArtHop reception is on Thursday, May 5th from 5 to 8 p.m. All proceeds will be forwarded to Doctors Without Borders, Ukraine.
Scarab Creative Arts is featuring the paintings of Fresno artist Corky Normart in the gallery at this opening reception.