Jennifer Davis facilitates budding artists with SmART Studio
words by Noor Hindi, photos by Ilenia Pezzaniti
If you ask Jennifer Davis what inspires her, she’ll tell you Chihuahuas and true crime podcasts and Frida Kahlo and cats and puns and hiking and avocados. Oh, and the color orange, but specifically the orange in the hallway carpet of the Overlook Hotel in “The Shining.”
It’s quite a list, but for someone who sees art in everything, it’s only a start.
“I think there are more people now turning to the arts as a way to express themselves,” Jennifer says. “If you can’t let your money speak for you and how you spend your dollar, you can let your art communicate for you.”
Through smART Studio, Jennifer facilitates art classes for all ages. Tucked in her backyard, her cozy studio is filled with Frida Kahlo portraits, student artwork and art supplies. The first thing visitors notice when walking into the space is the chalkboard wall where students have written notes like “Josh Wuz Here” and drawings of flowers and funny faces to each other.
“I hope that it’s an inspiring environment,” Jennifer says. “I see myself as a facilitator and the space as a teacher.”
Although Jennifer has her teaching degree and five years of experience in a traditional public school, she left the classroom and decided to pursue her own path. She’s happy with her decision because she gets to teach the way she wants. She’s owned smART Studio since 2013.
“If I have a student who’s really into frogs, we create everything around frogs and we learn about the life cycle of frogs” she says. “That’s the beauty of what I do and that’s why I love what I do. And that’s why this connects me to my philosophy of arts education, because it’s all process focused.”
Frida Kahlo isn’t the only woman who influenced Jennifer’s art. So did Jennifer’s grandmother, who she calls “a badass.” As a child, Jennifer would spend her Saturdays with her grandmother, watching scary movies, drawing and sipping Shirley Temples while her grandma drank beer.
“We’d just make art together,” she says. “It’s 10 am on a Saturday and she has her frosted beer. Such great memories.”
Aside from making and teaching art alongside her students, Jennifer has to balance the day-to-day struggles of being a business owner. Jennifer manages the business side of things by allowing herself to think of those tasks as an extension of her creativity.
It’s been helpful for her to learn how to manage her time and say “no,” while being bold enough to step outside of her comfort zone. It also helps to have a community that supports business owners, and Jennifer loves the entrepreneurial spirit in the city of Akron. She says so many people in Akron are “leaving their 9-5s to do their own thing.”
“If you’re making art, if you’re starting a business, if you’re taking a leap of faith, getting out of your comfort zone is so incredibly important,” she says. “The reason I love Akron is when you take that leap of faith there are people in this community that value what you do and recognize
Currently, Jennifer is working with Mary Bethel on cARTwheel, a traveling arts and crafts project for the community of Akron. Follow cARTwheel on Facebook @thecartwheelakron.
For art enrichment workshops as well as smART Studio’s event calendar, visit smartstudioakron.com. Follow smART Studio on Facebook @smARTStudioAkron, Twitter @smARTSakron and Instagram @smARTStudio.