Harper Tidwell and Abbey Ellerglick have been friends since they were 2 years old, and have been making art together almost as long. Needless to say, the 11-year-olds’ collection of masterpieces had become overwhelming—even more so after a long day of creating. One evening over dinner, Abbey’s mom, Lisa Eller, had an idea: Turn her garage into an art studio.
Lisa did a lot of the heavy lifting, cleaning out 15 years’ worth of belongings collected since she’d moved into her Belmont house, installing electricity and hanging storage shelves. A family friend built art tables that fold into the wall to conserve space, and Abbey and Harper painted the interior. (The girls and their moms had given the exterior a mural the summer before.) Says Harper, “We also spent some time setting it up and sorting out art supplies,” most of which were donated.
In the studio, which the girls call HAArT (a combination of both their names’ first initials plus “art”), their creations run the gamut: paintings, sketches, sculptures and even artwork out of Barbies.
“My favorite thing to make are paintings on canvases or wood,” Harper says. In
one mixed media piece, a defaced Barbie with a missing leg attaches to a scrap of wood with the words “Never give your girl a BARBIE!!” painted on it in red.
The space has become something of a classroom, too. While both of the girls participate in art-related activities at school (Harper attends Tandem Friends School and Abbey goes to Mountaintop Montessori), they’ve also taken lessons from real-life local artists in the HAArT studio: Dancer Karine Morgan taught the girls and their friends about making stencils and painting fabric, woodworker Christopher Purcell showed them how to silkscreen and photographer Cary Oliva introduced them to Polaroids. “I am hoping they will get inspired this summer to make some art out of the photos,” Lisa says.
The girls hope to continue making art in the future, and maybe even as a career. But they’re still figuring it out, keeping their options open. In addition to becoming an artist, Harper says she’d also like to be a baker.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get them down there, but once they are engaged, they do their thing,” says Lisa. “Now they have a place to plug in the glue guns, blast their music, make a mess, store the supplies and close the door.”
Both Abbey Ellerglick and Harper Tidwell are featured in an upcoming kids’ activity book, Go Photo!, by Alice Proujansky Murray. The book features 25 hands-on activities for children inspired by photography. The girls are the stars of the Chalk Dreams challenge, in which the author encourages readers to dream up a place they wish they could go, draw it in chalk and position themselves in the drawing before taking a photograph of the scene. Abbey and Harper will join Proujansky at the book signing at Jefferson School African American Heritage Center on Sunday, June 19, for the LOOK3: Festival of the Photograph Family Photo Day. The book will be on sale at the festival’s pop-up shop, but you can also find it on Amazon and at aperture.org.—C.W.