By Steve Graham
Whitney Phippen’s first memory reflects both her creative spirit and her business sense.
“I’ve always loved art my entire life,” she said. “I think the earliest memory I can remember was making birds nests out of grass clippings in my front yard, and then I painted little rocks and tried to put them in it like eggs, and I tried to sell them on Prospect.”
The Fort Collins native is now helping other children and adults pursue their artistic passions and creativity at the Art House, her colorful new venture that hosts a variety of open studio sessions and guided craft projects.
“I call myself a process art-based studio,” Phippen said. “Process art is just the idea that the process of making art, and the journey, is just as important as what you end up with at the end.”
She has already attracted a devoted following in her first few months.
“We’re able to come here and get a lot of different activities, and the mess isn’t all over our house,” said Jeff Darlington, who brought his preschooler to the Art House for an art playgroup.
The Art House building on Riverside Avenue was previously home to the Ice House. The new business name is partly an homage to the Ice House, where Phippen spent time as a child. She met her now-husband in eighth grade, and they would frequent the Ice House for hockey gear.
Phippen studied photography at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and graphic design at Colorado Mountain College, then spent several years traveling the world and helping her mother with an antique importing business.
Since becoming a mother herself, she has been a serial entrepreneur, but always with a plan for an art studio in the back of her mind. About ten years of thinking and planning finally came to fruition after her youngest child started school last year.
Most of the programs so far have been focused on kids, but she is starting an adult crafting time and is working on determining the best times during the week for adults to make art.
“It’s just as important for adults to have free time to come make stuff with their hands as it is for kids,” Phippen said.
She said it could be more challenging to work with adults because they are often less imaginatively creative.
“Adults are a lot more comfortable coming in and making a project, following steps to get from A to Z. They walk out with Z, and they’re happy,” Phippen said.
However, she has plans for lots of new programs to get the creative juices flowing, for kids and adults.
“I have notebooks and notebooks of ideas,” she said. “I have to pace myself because I can be pretty impatient sometimes, and I want to do everything right now.”
To start, she is adding a costume-making camp this month, before Halloween, and will continue her kids’ night out programs and her art camps, scheduled for days when many Fort Collins and Greeley elementary schools are not in session.
In general, she hopes all these programs help northern Colorado residents of all ages unlock their creativity and their mindfulness.
“I would just love it to be a space where people felt free to come in and maybe drop their adult duties for a while, or for kids who are super-overscheduled to have a place where they can just come in and let go and be creative and tap into that zone of flow,” Phippen said.