Bluebird Arthouse a place for supplies, classes, studios

A new art supplies store in Delano feels a little like an artists colony.

No, you can't live at Bluebird Arthouse. But you can buy supplies, rent studio space, take classes, keep your kids busy or simply lounge about in 8,000 square feet. And there's another 6,000 square feet upstairs that owner Emily Brookover may use at some point.

"It's room to grow, and that's a nice problem to have," Brookover said. "We have big plans."

Brookover put her years of experience as an artist into the store, which opened last week. A Garden City native, Brookover earned her bachelor's degree in fine arts at the University of Kansas and her master's degree at Wichita State.

Since moving to Wichita, she often found herself buying art supplies online or during visits to bigger cities. "I came to understand there's a real need for quality arts materials here," she said.

Bluebird caters to artists working in just about every medium, from painting and printmaking to sculpting and ceramics. The store sells pre-stretched canvases "in every size they make," Brookover said, along with materials for artists who prefer to stretch their own canvas. And because artists "are weird about having clean paper," Brookover lets customers select from samples out front before an employee wearing gloves actually packs up the purchase. Paints, inks, brushes, crayons, art books and much more round out the inventory.

This week, a carpenter was putting the finishing touches on eight private studios, each 8 feet by 8 feet. They'll rent for $100 a month, with a separate entrance giving occupants access at all hours. Space in a large, open studio will rent for $50 a month.

Brookover said all her employees have obtained or are working on art degrees; drawings by several were hanging in the lounge this week. She plans to have them teach courses and to bring in other artists to do the same. Those classes will range from one-topic sessions to multi-week courses, she said.

There's a lounge stocked with trendy art magazines, and a kids area where children can make and display their artwork. There's also a bin where artists can exchange items for pieces featuring "found art." The store is open Tuesday through Saturday.

Brookover said she wanted to locate in central Wichita, and the space that had been the old Kellogg-Buck Furniture store seemed ideal. The interior is airy and uncluttered, with white walls and concrete floors "that are perfect for us," she said.

She's heard people compare her store to Color King, an artists supply store here that went out of business in the early 1990s. "They're excited to have a place like that back," she said. "People remember it fondly."

Brookover's own specialty is drawing and painting with acrylics. She said owning her own business isn't out of character because she comes from "a long line of entrepreneurs."

"I'm the type of personality that likes to be the boss, not have a boss," she said.