There’s a central spot for art lovers in downtown Athens.
Tucked away on the upper floor of the corner building on Jackson and West Broad streets, The Kristen Ashley Artist Shop is a welcoming spot for art lovers and creative minds.
The woman, Kristen Ashley MacCarthy, behind the business is a longtime Athens resident who moved here to attend art school at the University of Georgia.
At the same time, she worked at DePalma’s Italian Cafe downtown as a manager and continued there after graduating.
After nine years of that, she now goes to work just a block down from the restaurant at her own shop, called K.A. Artist.
“I never really dreamed of having a retail store,” she said.
MacCarthy began looking for a space to use as a studio to make her art after she began selling her lace-covered shoes online.
“Once (the shoes) started selling in other countries, I was hooked. I thought this was really something I could pursue,” MacCarthy said.
MacCarthy was also busy with what she now specializes in — calligraphy and lettering, especially making wedding invitations.
Once she got the space, her business began to expand into it.
She wanted to teach classes, so having art supplies in stock was necessary.
“Some of these things we would need to have on hand anyway, so why not open that up to the public and let them shop?” MacCarthy said.
The shop carries pens, paper and paints of all colors as well as brushes, notebooks and cards.
A portion of the shop is a dedicated art gallery, with pieces by local artists displayed and for sale.
Another room in the shop is for photography, including lights and a backdrop. Anyone can rent the room to take photos of their work.
There is also a classroom space, where different artists teach classes in painting, drawing, silk coloring and book-making, among other things.
“Our main customer base for the classes is adult artists who want to learn new skills, but now we’ve also started a teen art club,” MacCarthy said.
The large space allowed Ashley to expand her business beyond the studio she intended to open. Over the course of the three years the shop has been open, MacCarthy said she’s enjoyed the learning curve.
She took business classes with Treehouse in Athens before opening her shop, and they’ve helped her run things smoothly.
“One of the new things I’ve really enjoyed trying is the business aspect of it,” MacCarthy said.
The shop allowed Ashley to get to know a wide variety of artists in Athens, and she’s helping them come together under one roof.
For more information on classes, visit https://kaartist.com/.
Follow reporter Hilary Butschek on Twitter @hilarylbutschek or at https://www.facebook.com/hbutschek.