Punkin the beagle exits the main house through a doggy door and trots across the yard on the path embedded with paving stones. She enters the coop, not to harass the chickens but to curl up in her doggy bed and bask in the calming creative energy within the walls of what once was a chicken coop but now serves as the Art Coop where “chicks” make art.
Artist and Art Coop owner Lou Carver wants to make it clear that roosters and children are included in the chick category. “But sometimes it’s nice just to be with your gal pals,” she said.
Carver opened the Art Coop to the public in June after spending two years and about $10,000 renovating the old 13-by-28-foot chicken coop, built in 1933, into the functioning art space it is today. Clouds decorate the high ceiling and tables can seat about a dozen art enthusiasts. Vintage game boards adorn one wall while the others are shelves filled with art supplies from floor to ceiling. Natural light floods in through the sky lights, windows, and the large French doors.
Carver has an associate applied science degree in visual media technology from Spokane Falls Community College and a bachelor’s in English from Eastern Washington University. She worked for years in graphic design and marketing, painting in watercolor on the side.
She taught classes at Spokane Art School, the Corbin Center, the Tin Man Gallery, the YWCA in Lewiston, and assisted with children’s art projects at the MAC, Garland Days and the Children’s Museum.
Now retired from her “day job,” Carver spends her time making things. About five years ago, she and a friend, Ginger Keogh, set up supplies on her front lawn under the large maple trees and began teaching friends and neighbors how to sun dye fabric, mosaic boulders and bowling balls, and create cement leaves. They socked away the money they made for the coop but Keogh moved to Scotland last year. “I really miss Ginger but know she will be here is spirit,” Carver said.
Carver believes in friendship and bonding with others. The way she does that is by sharing what she knows and spreading her enthusiasm. A visitor to the coop cannot help but be inspired by Carver’s gusto as she digs into a tub of tiny objects such as plastic pigs and rubber chickens, dominos, and postage stamps while describing what you can do with the items from mixed-media sculptures to jewelry.
She then proceeds to share the bracelets she made out of the round cardboard thing at the end of a roll of duct tape, the hand-made felt objects, “spool people,” match book shrines, and small portraits of cat and dogs made into pins. “It’s all about fun and bonding,” she said, “I like to get people excited about things. Life’s too short to not get excited about things.”
Carver also believes in preserving the past. Another of her passions is to share her knowledge of Spokane’s history. She dresses up in period costumes and educates and entertains groups with historic items and facts in a presentation called “History to You,” keeping true to her role as “teacher” in hopes of moving others to believe in the possibilities and potential of things like bowling balls and chicken coops.