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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE Barbara Putman, executive director of the Community Creative Center, speaks Dec. 20 about the soon-to-be-completed mobile pottery studio in her office in Fayetteville. The center team plans to go to schools across the Northwest Arkansas area where students can experience pottery, perhaps for the first time, and other art at no cost to the school. The goal is to serve 500 to 600 people free of charge at schools and nonprofit groups in the first year, Putman said.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The simple idea: Bring the opportunity to create art to people instead of them having to go to the art. Yet the staff at the Creative Community Center in Fayetteville couldn't find any examples of a mobile art studio, so they designed their own.

Executive Director Barbara Putman dubbed it the "Wheel Mobile."

"This is about bringing the arts to people who don't have access to the arts," she said. "It's a special opportunity."

While the mobile studio will house all sorts of arts classes, they wanted specifically to have potter's wheels. Access to this type of art can be especially limited because of costs and the demand for pottery classes has grown in the area, Putman said.

The community center team plans to go to schools across the Northwest Arkansas area where students can experience pottery, perhaps for the first time, and other art at no cost to the school. The goal is to serve 500 to 600 people free of charge at schools and nonprofit groups in the first year, Putman said.

She said they didn't want to gut a school bus or already made vehicle. This project was going to take some creative engineering and specialty work.

After looking around, Winnebago's specialty vehicles division seemed like the perfect choice to turn their vision of a mobile art studio with pottery wheels to life.

The division's website boasts that "a vehicle from Winnebago Industries Specialty Vehicle Division can be anything you want it to be." They're known for building mobile dental or bloodmobile vehicles know common around the country.

Putman and a few others made their way to Forest City, Iowa, in November to check on the customization. She said the Winnebago team seemed as pumped about the project as those at the center, working to design and redesign the interior.

They said the 33-foot vehicle with nine pottery wheels and pull-down tables is the most innovative feature they'd ever built, she said. It will also be equipped with motion stabilizers, storage space, two sinks and proper traps to hold clay water for proper disposal.

The center applied and received a Walton Family Foundation grant to purchase, design and equip the Wheel Mobile. The foundation also offered a one to two matching fund -- where every $2 raised by the center from sponsors is matched by $1 from the foundation -- for the mobile arts education programming, she said.

The Wheel Mobile will be an on-the-road extension of what the center offers, including multiple art classes for children and adults. The center will be able to rent the vehicle out for events and offer paid classes on the Bentonville square, for example, reaching people who may not be able to travel to their 505 W. Spring St. location in Fayetteville, Putman said.

Ashley Byers, the center's education program manager, was essential in the project's inception, Putman said. Byers worked in Springfield, Mo., with a vehicle that could transport art equipment, though it had to be unloaded.

She said she was able to offer outreach programming to schools and youth programs that didn't really have art resources, especially for clay, and reach hundreds of people they wouldn't have otherwise.

Making pottery isn't something everyone typically gets to experience, but the results of the craft can be seen everywhere.

"Being able to see it and understand how it works changes the way you look at your everyday objects, which is kind of magical," she said.

The Wheel Mobile's grand reveal will take place during the Creative Community's Center 10-year anniversary celebration in April.

NW News on 12/30/2017

Print Headline: Northwest Arkansas soon to have mobile art studio

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