The Mauldin Cultural Center has become a hub for residents learning to strum guitar chords, dance the salsa and create sculptures. But its selection of art education programs is still an “empty palette,” according to community development director Van Broad.
But that’s about to change.
The Art Haven, an art school based in Fountain Inn, is relocating to the Mauldin Cultural Center later this summer in hopes of promoting art throughout the city.
“It’s about getting our name out there,” said co-owner Susan Wilson. “Mauldin is just central to a lot of people and should help us introduce more people to the arts.”
The school is offering classes in multimedia art for $80 per month and pottery for $100 per month. The classes are going to be held in a 1,400-square-foot studio space on the first floor of the cultural center starting on Sept. 6. Classes are held for adults and children.
The school also plans to hold an open house on Aug. 19 at 6 p.m. at the Mauldin Cultural Center to celebrate its relocation and 20 years of art education.
Bringing art to the people
In 1978, Wilson enrolled at a community college in Southampton, Pa., and majored in fine art. During that time, she started teaching classes at The Painters Nest – a nearby supply store and art studio. She continued to teach there after graduating in 1982.
Wilson purchased the store in 1990 and her daughter Michelle Hyer started teaching there as she attended college to study fine art. In 1996, Wilson sold the store and relocated to Greenville. Hyer relocated shortly after and decided to partner with her mom.
The duo leased a space on College Street and opened The Art Haven to teach painting and other art forms to residents. In 1998, the duo had to relocate to the Camden Learning Center because the school’s enrollment had increased from 40 to 100 students.
“Word of mouth has been a big reason for our success. And we’re people people. That has a lot to do with it, too. Some artists can’t teach art. But we can,” Hyer said.
In 2000, the school relocated to downtown Simpsonville and adopted its pottery program. It also started to teach children and young adults with disabilities. The school started to teach at Hope Reach – a program for autistic children – in 2006.
“My son has autism, and they were the only ones interested in helping him pursue art,” said Susan Sachs, director of Hope Reach. “It’s just been a great outlet for him.”
The school also signed contracts to teach art at Hope Academy and Langston Charter Middle School. In 2009, the school relocated to the Younts Center for Performing Arts in Fountain Inn and continued its mission to promote art.
Creating a future for art
One of the school’s longtime students at the Younts Center had been Broad. He had raised more than $2 million for the center as the city’s economic development director. He left for Mauldin last year. He reconnected with Wilson and Hyer in May.
The duo toured the Mauldin Cultural Center and signed a lease shortly after.
“This is such a great opportunity for us,” said Wilson. “It’s just an ideal situation. We’re growing and so is this city. It just seemed to be a good match.”
The school has big aspirations for the future. It plans to join the Mauldin Downtown Market to recruit students and display art as well as partner with local businesses and schools to conduct team building exercises, according Hyer.
The addition of the school could bring more art teachers to the cultural center.
The school plans to reach out and embrace community artists wanting to teach other art forms such as stained glass or crafts. Also, students might get the chance to contribute to the cultural center’s public art trail and mural project in 2017.
“Each place we’ve been at has been a good opportunity for us. But we just feel that we’ll grow a lot more here. So we’re going to continue doing what we do best and hopefully better connect to the community,” Hyer said.