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Story and Photos by Alice Gerard
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, in June 2020, Bonnie Nevans and Crystal Still came up with an idea to help the community feel a sense of togetherness. That idea was a mural created by anyone interested in participating. Each volunteer was given a packet of materials, with directions on how to create a small portion of the mural. The individual pieces looked very abstract, and neither Nevans nor Still told any of the participants what the entire piece would look like.
“I just loved the collaborative effort and how everybody’s individual styles came together to create one big, beautiful piece,” Nevans said. “At that time, Orange Poppy was still kind of a pipe dream. We thought that if we could pull this off, maybe we could turn it into something.”
On June 10, the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce celebrated the Orange Poppy Art Studio, 323B Lang Blvd., with a ribbon cutting.
The Chamber of Commerce was part of Orange Poppy’s growth from the beginning.
“First, we spent a summer at the Chamber of Commerce. They let us use their building as kind of an incubator for business. We were able to run summer camps out of that,” Nevans said. “Then, we finally got our own building over on Whitehaven and Baseline, where we were for about a year and a half. It was wonderful for what we needed, but we needed more space and we needed better access with no stairs. That kind of thing. When this place came along, we took a chance on it and here we are.”
“It’s really exciting on the Island to have people take a chance on business and expand out and find different ways to do business,” said Eric Fiebelkorn, Chamber of Commerce president. “It’s great to see more women-owned businesses in our mix, because I still think that we’re short on that and to have two such exceptional people. The biggest downside to it is that not enough people know about it, like many of our businesses. Your word of mouth here as community leaders beats any radio ad you could ever do. We’re people who move and shake and talk about things locally and regionally.”
Nevans said, “It's wonderful. I’m so excited. I can’t believe it’s really here and really happening. We’re just excited for the future.”
Everyone is welcome to come to the Orange Poppy Art Studio to create art, Nevans and Still said. Their website describes the “process art” studio as a “judgment-free place for people to take a break from their busy lives and go back to that childlike state of creating just for the sake of creating.”
“You do not need to be an artist. In fact, we prefer if you’re the kind who thinks you’re not an artist, because we want to help you have a fun time creating and doing something a little different,” Nevans said.
Nevans and Still offer classes for people of all ages, from toddlers to senior citizens. Both of them said they would love to see more people experience creativity at the Orange Poppy Art Studio.
“Please spread the word,” Still said. If you have any questions, please reach out to us. We’d love to see you guys in a class. We do date nights. Bring … whomever. Bring your kids, bring your grandkids.”
To sign up for classes, either for yourself or for a child, check out the Orange Poppy Art Studio website at https://www.orangepoppyartstudio.com/.
As for the mural, it is now hanging up in the children’s section of the Grand Island Memorial Library. “Originally, our idea was to have it displayed at the Welcome Center, but it got caught up in the New York state red tape that, eventually, we just decided to scrap that, and the next best place we could think of was the library.”
“It's wonderful,” Nevans said about the studio. “I’m so excited. I can’t believe it’s really here and really happening. We’re just excited for the future.”
Bonnie Nevans and Crystal Still in Orange Poppy Art Studio’s new space on Lang Boulevard.