Knowledge and Inspiration with the Fuquay-Varina Arts Council

Gesine Noonan works on a still life

Art is a business,” says Jessica Yee, president of the Fuquay-Varina Arts Council. “The goal is to sell something, to be able to make a living.”

Time out. Isn’t this an organization fostering the arts?

I met Yee one morning at Cultivate Coffee to learn more about the Fuquay-Varina Arts Council. Her hair is dyed blue, as you might expect of a full-time artist, but what I don’t expect is her emphasis on business education.

See, Yee is a full-time professional calligrapher, creating custom letter art commemorating life’s important events, such as weddings and retirement, through her business, The Oblique Pen.

Yee founded The Oblique Pen after she abruptly decided to leave a 15-year career in IT. Within three years she had replaced her former salary.

“I had some great mentors across the nation,” says Yee, fellow artists that imparted the important lessons of how to value her work and where to position it in the market.

Sharing and building business knowledge among artists is one of Yee’s top priorities as president of the F-V Arts Council.

Twice-weekly open studio sessions at magnolia house custom framing offer arts council members opportunities to fellowship and share ideas. From left, Ted Zettle, Gesine Noonan, Arts Council president Jessica Yee and Ann Mayer.

“Unfortunately, a lot of students, as they come out of art school, are not taught how to run a business. They are only taught the art skills,” Yee says.

The Arts Council works to fill some of those gaps by hosting guest speakers on topics like accounting, financial planning, marketing and networking.

Last November, the council held its first Makers Market at the Fuquay-Varina Arts Center, a vendor show designed to help local artists get their work to buyers.

“It’s a lot to start a business,” Yee says. “If you are a crafter, you’ve got the tents and the tables and the display, not to include the stuff you actually want to sell. We made a market where you can come and test your feet and not lose your shirt.”

Formed in the early 2000s, the F-V Arts Council’s original aims were to create a support system for local artists — a place to find community, share ideas and grow the impact of the arts in town.

“It creates the ability to meet other artists in person and be inspired. Artists need to always be inspired, otherwise art falls to the back seat,” says Shirley Huntsberger, owner of Magnolia House Custom Framing in downtown Fuquay and longtime council board member.

Membership in the Fuquay-Varina Arts Council is open to all artists from hobbists to professionals, and arts enthusiasts as well.

Members have access to council programs like Gallery Around Town, where local businesses have art on display and for sale, monthly member meetings, and twice-weekly open studio sessions at Magnolia House.

“Being able to create fellowship with programs like … open studio, where a group of artists can come together and sketch and discuss modes and mediums and ideas and talk to other artists is very important,” Yee says. “It doesn’t make you feel so alone.”

“Becoming a member is a chance to show the town what you do,” says Hunsberger. “With your artwork up in local business on display, you’ll get exposure.”

Huntsberger’s idea for an en plein air paint off became an annual fixture of the Fuquay-Varina Downtown Association’s spring calendar. In conjunction, the Arts Council runs a student en plein air exhibition.

“We provide the paint, paper and equipment; all for free. Students just have to come with their talent,” says Yee.

The Fuquay-Varina Arts Council — a group 120 strong — is led solely by volunteers and always welcomes new friends into its ranks. Though supportive of the Fuquay-Varina Arts Center, the two organizations are not directly affiliated.

“The town has to look at programming for the entire community. We can create programming just for the needs of artists,” says Yee, who dreams of creating both women’s and cultural arts conferences in the future.

“Whenever we know about it, we try to put out there classes that are available, exhibits and art walks that are happening; promoting arts opportunities for artists to be aware of and for families to go and engage in,” she says.

“With our community growing by leaps and bounds right now, it will just make us more appealing if we can support local artists.”

Fuquay-Varina Arts Council
(919) 533-9134

1 Comment

  • Rebecca Johnston says:

    Hi, my name is Rebecca Johnston. I was trying to get in touch with Mrs. Gesine Noonan. My friend Michelle McElroy recommended her, saying she does painting portraits. I reached out to Michelle about doing a painting of my daughter that passed away about almost 12 years ago. I was also looking to have my husbands dog put into picture that is still alive. I’m trying to do this as a special Father’s Day gift for my husband. Wanted to know if this was something you could do. It will also depend on the cost, if I would be able to afford. If you could reach out to me I would greatly appreciate it very much.. I do hope we can work something out to make this a special memory for my husband to cherish.

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