Martinsville, Virginia


The Arts at The Artisan Center

Why buy a souvenir when you can make your own? At The Artisan Center in uptown Martinsville, you can take home a memory, a new artistic skill, or some fun dance moves.

The center, which is part of Patrick Henry Community College, specializes in helping people of all ages and abilities get in touch with their creative side. It is a stop on the exciting new Smith River Artisan Trail, a collection of local arts and cultural attractions.

In addition to existing classes in visual arts and traditional crafts, The Artisan Center has recently added a smorgasbord of new topics – from calligraphy to cooking to the performing arts. Whether you want to learn photography, pottery, beaded jewelry, woodworking, or herbs, there’s a weekly class or one-time workshop where you can create your very own work of art.

Many art lovers have admired the work of woodturner Terry Mitchell, who creates beautiful pieces in his workshop at Studio 107 on Church Street in uptown Martinsville. His creations, made out of woods from around the world, have been given as awards, exhibited in museums, and are part of the private collection of Grammy winner Darrell Scott. This master artist will share his secrets in an introductory Woodturning class starting in March at The Artisan Center. Learn to turn wooden forms using a lathe and create several projects to take home and enjoy! Classes are $89, including supplies, and will be held 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Thursdays, March 12-April 9. An intermediate class will follow for those who wish to take their skills to the next level.

Wood isn’t the only natural product being used at The Artisan Center. With spring cleaning season just around the corner, learn to make your own organic, natural cleansers without harsh chemicals from Kris Landrum of The Herbitage. Her hands-on workshop, Herbs for Spring Cleaning, will be held Monday, March 16 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Learn about the astringent and antibacterial properties of some herbs and make your own cleaning products to take home! Tuition is $25 plus a $10 supply fee payable to the instructor.

Then, if seasonal allergies are making you miserable, sign up for Landrum’s next workshop, Herbal Syrups, Salves and Honeys, on Monday, April 20. Herbs have been used for their healing properties for centuries. Make and take some herbal preparations for minor ailments and overall well-being.

Meanwhile, a variety of new dance programs have proved to be a popular way to get active in the new year. A tap dance class taught by a former Rockette, Jane Leizer, drew more than 25 people when it was offered for the first time starting in January 2015. Many of the students signed up to learn moves they can use onstage with the college’s performing arts troupe, the Patriot Players, which holds several variety shows, plays, and musicals throughout the year. With such a positive response, more opportunities to learn tap and other dances will continue to be offered.

So you think you can’t dance? Dance coach and choreographer Sue Ann Ehmann has never met a pair of two left feet she couldn’t teach. Her Tuesday night Line Dance classes have attracted a loyal following of beginners and experienced dancers alike, and they return week after week for fun, fellowship, and fitness.

The biggest correction Ehmann would like to make about line dancing is that “It isn’t all country!” She teaches dances to a wide variety of music genres, including Top 40 Pop, Country, Oldies, Show Tunes, etc. No partner is necessary. Beginner Line Dance classes are held every Tuesday at 6 p.m., while intermediate classes start at 7. Each are $25 for five weeks. The next session will be held March 17 through April 28 (no class on March 24 or 31).

By popular demand, Ehmann and her dance students have started holding Line Dance parties on the last Friday of every month as a way to practice what they’ve learned and reunite with old friends. The next dance will be 6-9 p.m. on Friday, March 27. Admission is $5.

For a mix of dance and aerobics, Lisa Lyle is teaching a Wednesday night Zumba class on the main campus of Patrick Henry Community College. Zumba incorporates easy-to-follow cardio steps and resistance training, with choreography to hip-hop, salsa, merengue, mambo, and reggaeton. Classes will be held 6-7 p.m. from March 25-May 13 for only $30.

Want to do something new for Date Night? Sign up for Intro to Swing Dancing (East Coast) on Wednesday nights from 6-7:30, and learn to “jump, jive, and wail!” Listen to classic tunes as instructor Mark Setliff teaches proper frame, leading and following, loop turns, arch turns, and much more. The next session will be March 25 to April 22 and is $25 for five weeks.

The Artisan Center tries to keep other traditional art forms alive, as well. Several classes build on the area’s deep roots in furniture and textiles.

The work of master woodworker Burr Fox can be seen in fashionable homes throughout the region, from custom furniture to fine cabinetry. In his spare time, he shares his love of the craft by volunterring with the local Boy Scouts and by teaching Artisan Center classes to a devoted following of adult students. Fox will offer one-on-one help making the project of your dreams in the Woodworking Open Studio class, held 5:30-8:30 p.m. April 7-May 5. The open studio offers students of any ability level the opportunity to use the woodworking equipment and get expert guidance as they work independently to create a piece of their choosing. Students bring their own supplies and ideas. Cost is $89 for the five weeks.

On any given Wednesday night, The Artisan Center is humming with sewing machines in Karen Despot’s Quilting class. A multitalented artist in a variety of media, including painting, graphic design, fiber arts, and more, Despot works out of a studio inside The Artisan Center that is also a site on the local Artisan Trail. Her Wednesday evening class is a mix of beginners, who practice new techniques on a sampler quilt, to longtime quilters who come for the fellowship and some extra guidance as they work on larger projects. Quilting is offered almost continuously throughout the year. The next five-week session is held 5:30-8:30 p.m. April 8-May 6. Cost is $89 for beginners and $49 for advanced, who may take the higher level after four sessions of the introductory class or permission of the instructor. Students purchase their own supplies.

Many jewelry classes are taught by multimedia artist Susan Weeks, who got her start studying glass and jewelry at The Artisan Center several years ago. These experiences reignited an early passion for the arts that inspired her to continue honing her skills, attending the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina and earning certification as a Precious Metal Clay instructor from Rio Grande Jewelry. A nurse practitioner by day, Weeks spends her free time creating beautiful jewelry in fused glass, metal, silver clay, and beads. She sells her work around the region and shares her skills through teaching at The Artisan Center. Weeks’s next class will be an Intro to Wire-Wrapped Jewelry, held Tuesday evenings from 5:30-7:30 p.m., April 14-May 19. Cost is $89 including supplies.

Everyone takes digital photos nowadays, but do you know what all those buttons on your camera really do? Back by popular demand, Certified Professional Photographer Ricky Dawson will teach additional sessions of photography and Photoshop in April. Learn to improve the quality of your pictures in Nuts and Bolts of Digital Photography from 6-8 p.m. on Thursdays, April 9-May 7. Cost is $60. Bring your camera and instruction manual, and get ready to capture your summer vacation with fantastic photos!

So you’ve taken a bunch of photos; now, how do you make them look better? Learn lots of easy tricks to spruce up your pictures on the computer in Intro to Adobe Photoshop, 6-8 p.m. on Tuesdays, April 14-May 12. Bring a thumb drive of images you’d like to enhance. Cost is $60.

These are just some examples of the skills you can learn and memories you can create with a trip to The Artisan Center, located at 54 West Church Street in historic uptown Martinsville. Pre-registration is required for most classes by calling 276-656-5461 or emailing Check out or The Artisan Center Facebook page for new events being added throughout the year!