Emily Parkes talk to Julie Hyde, founder of a charity called The Centre of England Arts. Providing painting classes and workshops, the charity aims to give students confidence and to develop their interest in the arts. Julie tells us how she set up the charity and the ethos behind COEA.
Tell us about the COEA.
The Centre of England Arts is a charity set up by me to help people learn and enjoy art and crafts skills. We run eight painting classes a week (more in 2012) and a number of one-day art and crafts workshops – usually at weekends.
What did you do before this?
For many years, I worked as a mechanical engineer, involved in the design of everything from railway coaches to gas cookers. A few years ago, I went freelance running art classes in local village halls and doing painting commissions alongside part-time gardening work.
What steps did you take to create your own business?
I made many enquiries of business support agencies and business development professionals. The unexpected availability of highly suitable premises at Patrick Farm Barns, Hampton in Arden, was what encouraged me to get started.
What have you learnt since setting up the COEA?
Gosh, lots! On the business side, it's only when you're up and running that you really learn how to deal with the issues that arise around premises, insurance, accounts and so on. In terms of the classes and workshops we run it's been very much a question of finding out what topics are popular and which are less so. I'm still learning!
If you had the time, what other craft would you like to learn?
Other than drawing and painting, which are lifelong passions, I prefer to dabble in other crafts. I'd love to go to every one of our workshops and just have a go at lots of different things.
Where do you see the COEA in the future?
I'm not expecting to pop my clogs any time soon but my aim is for the Centre of England Arts to be my legacy. With this in mind, I'd like it to be operating with additional regular tutors so that I can start to take more of a back seat and concentrate on developing new ideas.
What advice would you give someone starting a creative business?
Be prepared to struggle with (boring) things such as accounts and business plans! Get help with these and use your artistic skills on things such as your website and promotional materials – remember you are still an artist.
Who are some of your favourite artists/designers/makers?
I am a big fan of the Great Masters and would love to have been in the bars in Paris with the French Impressionists.
What is the best part of what you do?
The end of each class! I get great satisfaction seeing people take home paintings they have done based on what I've told and shown them. I can spot a sort of light of understanding go on in their head when they suddenly realise how to do something. For me, it's as though I've given them a Christmas present.
What's the ethos behind the COEA?
Our vision is the promotion of, education in and appreciation of the arts. Quite simply we help everybody to learn to draw or paint or learn a craft. And - this is important - they should enjoy doing so. Our talented tutors delight in passing on their knowledge and techniques – it's for the participants to use this information as they wish.