Martin, 25, graduated from Northern Kentucky University in May 2007 with a bachelor's degree in Fine Art (emphasis in drawing) and an associate degree in Graphic Design. In December, she transformed her studio space into an artist co-op, gallery and store with a stated mission of "aspiring to be a colorful, conscientious artist cooperative: an artist venue, an artistic community networking joint and a creative space for studios, workshops and group meetings."
The Flying Cat is a great addition to Covington's growing "art district." Many other Mainstrasse shops have a funky feel to them -- Leapin' Lizard specializes in contemporary pieces and "functional" art, Lovely Teaspoon offers wearable art and accessories and Bean Haus features monthly photography exhibits and creative coffee concoctions.
All of these venues belong to the Covington Art Merchants Organization and participate in the monthly First Friday Gallery Hop. The Flying Cat fills a nice niche in this developing "art zone" and will appeal to those looking for something cool but low-key.
The Flying Cat is cozy and intimate, carrying the feel more of a personal studio than a store. When you enter the shop, you will likely be greeted by Maggie, a friendly stray cat Julia's roommate (and contributing co-op artist) discovered on the roof. The antithesis of the solemn and highly refined art merchant, The Flying Cat embodies playfulness, with a jumble of contents piled into the space as lovingly as the treasures in a child's toy box. The entire "shop" is simply a room filled to the brim with art of all flavors: paintings, drawings, prints, altars, magnets, wallets, purses, jewelry and sculptures.
I am immediately drawn to some of the polymer clay pendant necklaces, small earth-tone disks that remind me of antique pottery. I spend some time gazing at many other curiosities, such as wooden "gnome doors" (which only open for gnomes), carefully sculpted flower pens, slick plastic wallets and a huge collection of tiny clay fetuses. Yes, you can collect the many different personalities of these colorful and bizarre fetuses, which sort of resemble troll dolls without the hair, and happen to be the specialty of one of the co-op artists.
At present, the co-op has five members who take turns running the shop in exchange for having a venue for their art. The hope is that the space can pay for itself, or at least cover the utilities. Meanwhile, Martin makes ends meet by teaching yoga, modeling for artists and handling carryouts at an Outback Steakhouse. Martin's goal is for The Flying Cat to be not so much a source of income as a resource for the community.
"I want it to be a place where people can come and be inspired and do work, and meet other creative people," Martin says. "I just want it to exist for the community. If people come in here, they will probably see something they would like to have. It's affordable and it's local -- it's helping someone here."
Affordable art. That's a concept. As I look more closely around the shop I notice that most of the items are $15 or less, and many are as low as $3. This is surprising, considering the time these pieces probably took to make -- reinforcing the idea that this is a place where art is made accessible, both for the artists and the general public. The co-op also hosts a weekly craft night on Thursdays, where even people who don't consider themselves artists are welcome to come and create. So far, this has included stenciling and crocheting, and a paper sculpting night and puppet show are also in the plans.
"I'm really interested in working with people (and) relying on people and having them rely on you -- the bartering system," Martin says. "We would like to host artist presentations, workshops and other community-based events. There are a lot of plans for our little building, and the area is constantly being fortified with artistic spirit." ©
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