Oklahoma Higher Education Campus E-Clips sponsored by the Communicators Council

September 2010

Art Supply Store Opens in Arts District Incubator, Benefits ECU Students


Art Supply Store
Erin Wetherill of Ada signs a lease to become the first tenant of the East Main Enterprise and Incubator which was funded through a Rural Business Enterprise Grant awarded to East Central University. She opened Red Earth Art Supply, the only local retailer of fine arts supplies, in the incubator on Aug. 16 in the Arts District of Ada. Watching are Keith Malott, business development specialist with Rural Enterprises Inc., and Bridget Forshay, ECU coordinator of economic development for arts-related and rural businesses.

The first business in the new East Main Enterprise and Incubator opened Aug. 16 at 808 E. Main in the Arts District of Ada.

Red Earth Art Supply, the only local retailer of fine art supplies, was ready for art students’ first day of classes at East Central University as well as artists in the area, said owner Erin Wetherill.

An artist herself, Wetherill said she is focusing first on supplies for art classes, then will build to a full line and range of products. She plans to carry supplies requested by artists.
Wetherill said only basic art supplies have been available locally, “but not nearly enough. Before, artists would have to drive to Ardmore or Norman. When I needed something (as a student), it was tough finding it.”

Wetherill was the first student to receive ECU’s new bachelor of fine arts degree. She graduated last December and is a fine artist who works in mixed media and painting and also designs sterling silver jewelry. She will work in a studio behind her retail space and offer her work for sale.

The store also offers a digital gallery. Slides of artwork can be displayed on a flat-screen television for a small fee. Artists will pay a commission when their work sells.

The arts-related incubator was funded through a Rural Business Enterprise Grant awarded to ECU by the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Rural Development. ECU actually received two grants totaling more than $600,000 for grassroots planning and business development in order to launch an arts district. A series of town meetings allowed community input to develop and create the district, which should help increase cultural and artistic activities, create jobs and increase tourism.

Bridget Forshay, coordinator of economic development for arts-related and rural businesses, said the incubator building was purchased through one of the grants in 2009. The incubator has been certified by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, resulting in certain tax benefits to clients. ECU contracted with Rural Enterprises Inc. of Durant to manage the facility.

The building has been separated into four suites. Two suites still are available to qualified entrepreneurs. Wetherill occupies the largest space and the fourth suite is Forshay’s office. The incubator allows an entrepreneur to start a business for around $500 a month for rent and utilities, Forshay said. Incubator rent starts at 30 percent of the full market value for the first six months, then increases by 10 percent every six months. Entrepreneurs pay their own utility bills. ECU provides trash service and basic internet.

“The rent is designed to increase slowly so entrepreneurs can get on their feet and get established,” Forshay said. “On average, it takes three to four years for incubator businesses to become sustainable on their own. Then we hope they will choose to locate in the Arts District.”

The boundaries of the Arts District are East 9th Street to East 14th Street and from Mississippi east to Francis.

For applications to start a new business in the incubator, contact Forshay at 580-559-5296 or by email at bforshay@ecok.edu. The businesses must be new and arts-related in some broad sense, she said.

Red Earth Art Supply can be contacted at 580-235-0309 or erin@redearthartsupply.com. The store’s Internet address is www.redearthartsupply.com.

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