Residents of Southern Dallas County call Visual Expressions Creative Art School and Gallery (VECAS) an artist’s oasis. It is located at Highway 67 and Wintergreen in Cedar Hill, Texas. Here, beginning and professional artists, ages five and up experience a variety of hands-on art lessons. Six-week classes are small, reasonably priced and taught by successful, professional artists. Painting, jewelry design, ceramics, glass making and mixed media are just samples of the classes offered Monday through Saturday during the mornings, afternoons and some evenings.
“I never grew up with art,” said Susan Pollard, one of more than 60 adult students at VECAS. “And when I saw what other students were doing, I thought, ‘I can do that.’”
A flyer in the mail first encouraged Ms. Pollard to visit the school.
Spring Break, summers, and Saturdays, the school is filled with more than 150 children. Many of them qualify for scholarships and grants provided by VECAS, which significantly defray the cost of enrollment.
Founders Bill and Robin Ingle’s vision for VECAS began seven years ago when they bought the property and first opened the gallery. Robin is an accomplished artist known across the country for her artistic portrayal of scenes from the southwestern parts of the U.S. Until 2004, she and Bill traveled, participating in art shows to sell her work.
“Fifteen to eighteen shows on the road a year, packing and unpacking – it was hard on us,” said Bill. “So the thought was since we live in Cedar Hill, and there is no art presence in here, this is a great opportunity to get off the road and bring quality art to the area.”
Determined to complete its many phases of development, Robin and Bill worked with the city to erect an entire retail center that mirrors the look and feel of old Arizona and New Mexico – rustic buildings, cedar, cactus and masonry reminiscent of the old west. A piece of artistic mastery itself, the area houses several office and retail spaces. But the central attraction is the art gallery which now doubles as a thriving, artistic learning center for all. It wasn’t long after the gallery opened for business that patrons began to request art lessons of all kinds.
Some of the area’s best art teachers have been recruited, twelve of whom work consistently at VECAS, providing quality instruction at a time when art is typically eliminated from public elementary schools.
“It is unlike anything in the area…it is a unique, high quality school,” said Robin. “Kids and adults need artistic expression – it promotes critical thinking and gets them active in something meaningful and builds confidence.”
“The mission statement is to bring art and culture south of the Trinity for anyone to enjoy,” said Kelli Howie, one of the original instructors and building design consultants. “We want to promote the arts and all of the physical and mental health benefits that art provides. People who have come for just one six-weeks class have relaxed, avoided stress, and developed passions and friendships and careers.”
“Twice a year the public is invited to the school’s art shows where students display their works, and there is a drawing for prizes, including a free art class,” said Jennifer Tamez who, along with her husband Javier, is in charge of daily operations at VECAS. “Ultimately, we want to expand our class options, offer even more mediums and grow the school to become a large influence upon our community.”
“Lives have been changed,” said Robin. “People who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to develop artistically have gotten that chance. And now we are looking forward to bigger projects such as city art and murals. Cedar Hill should be a premier city, and art brings people to the city.”
For more information about Visual Expressions Creative Art School and the Gallery, visit veartgallery.com or call 972-293-1117. Visit robiningleart.comto view the work of Robin Ingle, Co-owner of VECAS.