Grant helps 12-year-old Crothersville girl open art studio


In third grade, one of Zoey Prince’s school assignments was drawing a tree in the distance.

That started her interest in art.

"I just thought it was really fun to draw, so I just really started to like drawing, and I drew more often," she said.

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Four years later, she still has a love for art and has given others an opportunity to express themselves artistically.

Now 12 and a seventh-grader at Crothersville Junior-Senior High School, Prince received help in applying for an Art Project Support grant from the Indiana Arts Commission.

In July, she learned she was a recipient of nearly $5,000 in establishing The Happy Tree Art Studio.

The initial plan was to put the studio in donated space inside Beauty from Ashes Tattoo Parlor in Crothersville. When the shop moved locations, owner Kyle McIntosh still let Prince have space upstairs.

Prince received several donations to bring the studio to life, and the first class was conducted in September. Now, a second set of classes is underway.

"I was very excited because it was like my whole vision was coming true and it was actually going to happen," she said of her reaction to receiving the grant.

"It was important because my school did not have an art class, and I love to do art, and I wanted to find a way that I could do art and have other people do art," she said. "I thought this was the way to do it, so I just went at that and made it my goal."

On March 3, Prince, who was 11 and a sixth-grader at the time, made a presentation during a Crothersville Town Council meeting in hopes of gaining support for the art studio. The grant had to be submitted by a nonprofit organization or government entity, and the council agreed to support the effort.

Prince received help from Tiffany Reynolds in filling out the application. The grant provides funding to support a specific part of an organization’s arts activities, such as a one-time event, a single production, an exhibition, an educational workshop or a series of related arts activities, such as art classes or training sessions, according to the commission’s website.

Applicants can request up to $5,000, and the total project budget must be at least twice the grant amount request.

Crothersville resident Liz Brownlee told Reynolds about the grant after she heard about Prince wanting to start an art studio.

"It was due in maybe a week and a couple days, and she was like, ‘By the way, this is probably one of the hardest grants you’re going to have to apply for, so good luck,’ and I was like, ‘What?’" Reynolds said. "She said, ‘It’s a great way to fund the project, and it sounds exactly like what you guys will need to get up and running.’ Of course, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it.’"

Later on, Reynolds was part of a Zoom call with a committee that was reviewing the grants. She said they spent about 15 minutes critiquing each grant, and she called Prince’s mother, Ellen Prince, afterwards nearly in tears.

"I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! They hated it. They picked it apart,’" Reynolds said. "They were like, ‘Wow! Well how is this going to work? And hypothetically, do you think that this could happen?’ The panel is talking, and I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Oh my gosh! I just bombed. It’s horrible.’"

A few weeks later, though, she received word the grant was approved.

"That was a relief to know," Reynolds said.

"I think my reaction was relief that a young child had put so much hope into these people that didn’t know who she was," Ellen said. "It made me feel like, as a parent, that the good in people was there. You could see that people believed in a kid. To me, there was just relief that we weren’t going to have to sit down and say, ‘This is a really cool idea you had, but we’re going to have to figure out a different way to do it.’"

Ellen said liked watching her daughter and Reynolds work together to apply for the grant and then bring the art studio to life.

Some of the grant money was used to buy supplies and tables, but there’s still a good chunk of money left thanks to generous donations.

Crothersville graduate Missy Butiste owns Columbus Cabinetry, and she donated the countertops and cabinetry and installed them.

Another Crothersville graduate, Joel Fawbush, made a donation through Reynolds’ organization, The Helping Hearts, to use at her discretion, and that went toward flooring for the art studio.

Reynolds said one of the biggest victories in terms of donations was the space, which is upstairs at McIntosh’s shop at 201 N. Armstrong St.

"Kyle so graciously let us just have creative freedom up there," Reynolds said. "It’s a great space. It’s small. It’s intimate. It’s going to allow us to accommodate probably 10 to 12 students, depending on what we’re doing."

Zoey chose the color of the cabinets and walls.

"We still have some things to do up there most definitely, but the most exciting part was just getting to see and do everything to the space and do what I wanted it to look like," Zoey said.

"She has really been the brains behind the whole project, which I think is amazing," Reynolds said. "The decisions that were made were really on Zoey, and she has been to every class we’ve had. She’s the heart of the machine. She’s the one that makes it go."

McIntosh also helped the studio by conducting an art supply drive for his birthday. Plus, one of his tattoo artists, Kansas Yount, taught the first class at the new studio.

One watercolor class was conducted in September, but others were canceled when the tattoo shop closed down for a while. Reynolds said Yount wants to do more classes in the future.

The second class at the studio was Nov. 5. Darrin Means, a 1991 Crothersville graduate who is the art teacher at Southwestern High School in Hanover, taught eight students how to do pencil drawings. A second session was Thursday night, and others are planned for Nov. 19 and 24.

Reynolds is helping find artists to teach classes, which are offered for all ages and go along with the studio’s motto "Art for all, big and small."

"Any art thing that anybody wants to do," Zoey said of the type of classes she wants to offer.

"I am hopeful people will start saying, ‘Hey, I have this skill. I may not be a professional, but I have a skill that I would like to share,’" Ellen said.

The studio’s grant funding runs through June 30, 2021, and Reynolds plans to apply again next year.

She also wants to get the studio designated as a nonprofit organization.

"There are so many more grants out there that we can apply for if we’re a nonprofit," Reynolds said. "Hopefully, before we have to submit next year’s (grant) application, we will be (a nonprofit)."

Reynolds said it has been exciting to see the studio unfold.

"For me, it has been really eye-opening to know that we have a young person, 12 years old, that has the vision and has the drive for us as adults to be able to motivate them and support them and help them and show them how to accomplish those goals," she said. "I think if we all pay attention to our youth that we would be really surprised at what they can accomplish."

Zoey said she hopes she inspires others, no matter their age.

"I want people to definitely go for their dreams," she said. "I’d say that’s the biggest thing is just go for it. Don’t be scared to get judged or anything. Just go for it."

Zoey said her next goal is to go to college, earn a degree and return to her hometown and open a veterinary clinic.

"But we’ll still have art classes," she said.

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The Happy Tree Art Studio is located upstairs at Beauty from Ashes Tattoo Parlor, 201 N. Armstrong St., Crothersville.

The community-based art studio is made possible by a grant from the Indiana Arts Commission.

The studio is looking for instructors to teach upcoming classes: Painting, pencil, chalk, mixed media, sculpting, etc. The instructors will receive a small salary, and the supplies for each class are provided.

For questions about classes or to sign up, contact Tiffany Reynolds at 248-912-5721 or via Facebook messenger or visit