It’s a grey, rainy Wednesday evening in late October, but for those nestled in a small space at 1574 Argyle St. the evening is bright, colourful and buzzing with activity.
Arts and crafts cover walls near a quote by Pablo Picasso painted in large letters that says art wipes away the dust of everyday life.
Small paint holders in almost every colour imaginable are scattered across the two tables laid out for participants.
This is Sparkles n’ Sawdust.
Owner, and self-taught jewelry maker, Jacquelyn Miccolis started Sparkles n’ Sawdust as a retail store so artists with mental illness and disabilities could sell their work.
“This is my happy place,” says Miccolis. “This has been such an amazing experience.”
As amazing as it is, a few months ago workshops, like the craft workshop, wouldn’t have been possible. Miccolis says she had to limit her hours due to a variety of factors, including inadequate signage and a difficult-to-find location.
“It was sad; it was really bittersweet when we first closed,” she says. “I was going to turn it into a coffee shop … I still had that entrepreneurial drive in me and thought, you know what there is nowhere to take affordable accessible art classes.”
Instead of closing the doors for good, she reopened in October as a shop and arts centre, with twice-a-week workshops. The arts centre addition is in line with what Miccolis always wanted: a collective, creative space to create that was affordable and accessible.
“I knew there was a gap for adult art classes so as soon as I put the word out people responded and said they liked the idea. So, I just created the space I wish existed,” she says. “Most places are so formal and expensive. As an artist myself, the main thing is that I want people to take my classes.”
Prices of events at Sparkles n’ Sawdust vary. The craft workshop Miccolis hosted in October cost $10.
“We have a nice range of different talents and strengths to offer,” she says.
Many workshop instructors also sell their art in the shop, which makes Miccolis feel as if her venture has come full circle.
“The whole journey has been great. Halifax is like a big city within a small city,” she says. “The people in the art scene are very supportive.”
Miccolis plans to host many other events such as photography classes, holiday card making and networking sessions. She likens the networking event to speed dating, without the dating aspect.
“Everyone will take time and go around the room to network with each other; we have a huge range of artists from different backgrounds which I didn’t expect,” she says. “It really should be exciting.”
Art can be beneficial in other ways, says Miccolis. For her, it has helped her through difficult times.
“In a world where there is so much anxiety and stress, I really think that everyone, and not just artists, can benefit by realizing what creativity they have to offer, even if it’s just for fun,” she says.
As part of the October class, participants painted vinyl records. One participant, Abby Goodwin says she found the experience soothing. She also enjoyed being able to share a night of art with others.
“Most people our age meet friends through work, and I face this as well as an entrepreneur who is new to the city. This is one of the reasons I’m here,” says Goodwin who’s originally from Ontario.
“To get creative and have the space and resources to do it. But also connect with people who want to do the same. As an adult, this is really special.”
Miccolis’ sister-in-law Kristy Pippy also took part in the class and painted record with stars for her daughter.
“She must have been one when she learned Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” says Pippy. “I’m happy to make this for her.”
Pippy, a published poet, feels very comfortable at Sparkles n’ Sawdust, even though she isn’t an artist. She says Miccolis created an inclusive space where, no matter what a person’s background, they can be an artist.
Along with the other events mentioned, Miccolis is also planning mic nights, poetry and spoken word nights and a holiday market.
“A lot of Christmas markets in the city are so expensive to be a vendor; I looked into them and I realized I couldn’t afford it,” she says. “If I can’t afford it, there must be others as well. I’m going to charge under $50 for vendors and I have a lot of people who already signed up.”
This idea, says Miccolis, is about taking her accessible and affordable philosophy with her through every venture.
“I want to make it accessible for people. There’s no reason I should make thousands of dollars off the event,” she says. “I want regular people to have the experience rich people have.”
Along with the support she’s garnered from the community, Miccolis owes her perseverance and growth to the downtown Halifax business community.
“It is really special,” she says. “All of the businesses around here are so welcoming and have lots of advice.”
No matter where Sparkles n’ Sawdust goes, Miccolis’s glad she started and stuck with it.
“I would rather lie on my deathbed and know I tried than to say oh I wish I did this and I wish I did this. I think just being right here is success,” she says.
About the author
Adam McNamara is a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has a passion for telling stories and informing the public on healthcare, education,...