Sept. 4, 2003
I fell through the looking glass and ended up in Clinton. Surrounded by clouds of patchouli incense tinged with freshly brewing coffee aromas, luminous saris in glorious purples and reds, I was in Clinton's newest gallery, Colorwheeler Designs. Michelle Campbell, gallery owner, not only runs Colorwheeler, but the house-turned-gallery doubles as family home.
"I've always wanted to live somewhere I could have a gallery," Campbell says. The Potter House, home of the gallery, was built in 1870 and was formerly a restaurant and bookstore. Nestled in the "Old Towne" part of Clinton, Colorwheeler is within walking distance of Mississippi College and other downtown businesses.
Campbell's ease and creativity make it seem perfectly natural that she has a gallery in her home. Her daughter's bedroom is center stage, with elaborate Indian screen murals, designed by Campbell, saris for curtains, lanterns and a headboard that would make any Rajasthani princess proud. Paprika-colored walls in the other rooms act as a delightful springboard for the art displayed there. Campbell's own vividly colored acrylics are brothers and sisters to the space itself. Roger Cliburn's graceful copper sculpture of a tree branch shades part of the hallway leading to the generous back porch with pots of basil and space for more artwork and activities.
Gwyn Barber's acrylics peer down on a space with tables that can be used for meetings and parties. Inspired by nature and the surprise of human elements in all its aspects, eyes, toes and fingers seem to creep out of her paintings that appear to be tree trunks and leaves at first glance. Larry Mark Brumsfield's pen-and-inks seem to have come from a Victorian children's book. Other works by Elizabeth Clayton, Jennifer Cerami and Christine Parker grace the house. The space itself is worth the short jaunt to Clinton—Campbell's love and respect for the old house coupled with her bravado in color choice and design make for a truly inviting space.
A mere stone's throw away on East Jefferson Street is the Mad Hatter Cafe, making my Alice in Wonderland experience complete. Mad Hatter is a non-profit organization offering an eclectic space for students with free Internet access, a house band (Goodman County), great coffee and killer coffeecake. Throw in long hours (open 24 hours during exams), and you've got what president Alissa Deamonti describes as "a place to hang out without having to go to bars." The money from coffee and food sold pays to keep the lights and Internet on. Art students can show their work for free and take home 100 percent of the profits when a piece sells. "It gives the students an avenue to express things they want to express," Deamonti says. "There are so many kids with so much talent."
Much of the work to get the doors open at Mad Hatter and the adjoining performance space, The Rabbit Whole, was donated by the Christian Riders (Harley meets handymen), the community and the people in the organization. Vice president Johni Medeiros says his Mom even bakes the coffeecake. Artwork hanging currently is by several students at MC including Matt Broome, Chase Quarterman, Philip Lehner, Dianne Stepanick, D.D. Parris, BR Arbuthnot, Dylan Lowe (check out the bathroom space), and ceramics by Justin Rives. Non-students who show work receive a percentage of the profit from the sale of their art.
Famed artist Wyatt Waters' new gallery is sleek, elegant and unpretentious—words that could easily describe Waters himself. He says his goal for the space is simply to allow "the color to be on the wall." This master painter's use of color in his watercolors of familiar scenes makes memories second to his vivid treatment. His wife, Vicki, also works in the gallery helping to fill orders for prints and paintings. Their new Web site ranks No. 10 on Yahoo searches for artists and, consequently, the Clinton-based local favorite is shipping paintings to Japan and meeting clients from Zimbabwe.
Waters' presence gives weight and a sense of stability to the effort in Old Towne. He went to MC and remembers walking past his present gallery space often after his family's move to Clinton in his 10th-grade year. Waters believes that "when the Natchez Trace is finished people will realize how close Madison really is to Clinton."
The community has worked hard to create this artistic oasis. Clinton Mayor Rosemary Aultman is credited with improving the Old Towne area. "New lamp posts were installed, power lines moved to the back of buildings, and sidewalks fixed" Deamonti says. The landlord, who owns several of the buildings including Colorwheeler, Mad Hatter and Wyatt Waters' new gallery across East Jefferson, allows such expression by his tenants,which proves how one person's flexibility and support can make such a difference.
Emily Resmer is the JFP art critic.
Creativity in Old Towne
1. Gravity Coffeehouse, 202 W. Leake St., 925-9808
2. Colorwheeler Designs Gallery, 104 W. Leake St.. 926-1995,
Monday - Friday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., or by appt.
3. The Mad Hatter Cafe, 306 E. Jefferson St., 291-0071,
Monday - Friday 7 a.m. - midnight., Saturday 8 a.m. - midnight., Sunday, noon - 10 p.m.
4. Wyatt Waters Gallery, 307 N. Jefferson St., 925-8115,
Monday - Friday 10 a.m. - 5 p..m., Saturday 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. and by appt.