Art Feeds, Even Virtually: Creative summer camp goes online

Art Feeds, Even Virtually: Creative summer camp goes online
LARA JO HIGHTOWER/Special to the Free Weekly

On June 2 and 3, a huge field on the outskirts of Prairie Grove will hold the largest selection of open-air flea market booths in the Northwest Arkansas area. From polished antiques to funky vintage treasures to rusty farm finds, shoppers should be rewarded with just about anything they’re looking for at the Junk Ranch, which boasts 150 vendors and more than 200 booths.

We asked a few vendors what they’re bringing to the event, how they got involved in junking, and what their best find ever was.

Don Wilkinson

Don Wilkinson found his way to junking the way a lot of vendors do: he kept finding great stuff while shopping for his own collection of vintage Speas Vinegar bottles. So when he retired in his mid-50s after 35 years with the Arkansas Highway Department, he threw his hat into the flea market ring and got a booth at one of the largest flea markets in the country in Canton, Texas. After 10 years of selling at Canton, he moved up to an even bigger venue — Round Top, Texas, the Holy Grail of flea markets.

“It was a lot of work on my part,” he says. “We would haul seven or eight trailer loads down between shows, store them, and then we’d go down and set up and stay two weeks, selling. We sold to people from everywhere — California and everywhere. They got to buying from me, and they actually got to buying too much. It became too much of a job, and age took over.”

Wilkinson is 85 now, and he was thrilled when the Junk Ranch opened up so near his home in Mountainburg. Though the main product he sells are chicken laying houses — he estimates he’s sold around 30,000 over the course of his junking career — the booth he runs with his son is an eclectic mix of auction, estate and farm sale finds.

Wilkinson’s best find ever was deceptively simple: a box full of old bottle caps.

“I told my wife, ‘I found the Holy Grail,’” he remembers. “They were unused, cork-lined Dr Pepper bottle caps from 1907. The first bottle caps ever used on a Dr Pepper bottle.”

When he put them on eBay, he says, “people went crazy.”

Stacey Murphy

The Weathered Pearl

Stacey Murphy’s relationship with the Junk Ranch started off as a shopper.

“I loved the eclectic mix of old, used, collectible items and the vendor inspired pieces! I thought to myself, ‘I could do this,’” she recalls. “I applied the next year, and junk has been my livelihood ever since.”

Murphy advises yard sale shoppers to look for the signs with a torn piece of cardboard with the word “sale” scribbled across it as a marker.

“Often these sales are not advertised on social media, so it increases your chances of finding a hidden treasure,” she says.

She also hits the widely advertised sales, like the Oklahoma 100-mile Yard Sale. That’s where she found her favorite find: a 13-foot late 1800s banquet table discovered in a barn in Cleveland, Okla.

“I have done several shows all over Oklahoma and Arkansas, and I would say what sets the Junk Ranch apart from the others is the venue itself, the friendly vendors, the amazing shoppers, but most of all how well [Junk Ranch founders] Amy [Daniels] and Julie [Speed] have it organized,” Murphy says.

Tracy Davis

Rusty Heart Relics

“I have always loved old things as long as I can remember,” says Tracy Davis of Rusty Heart Relics. “My mama had an eye for the ornate and passed it along to me. We spent many a weekend traveling the roads for that elusive treasure.”

For her booth, she stocks a wide variety of items.

“I love vintage and antique garden items, primitive and antique furniture, and holiday decor,” she says. “I loved MCM before it was cool.”

Her favorite find is an antique child’s bedroom suite she found at the famed Texas flea market Round Top.

“It is a beautiful faded robin’s egg blue with a painted design, and it’s to die for,” she says.

Davis has had a love affair with the Junk Ranch since the first year.

“From the live music and food trucks to the mountains of treasures and lovely vendors, I knew this was the show that I wanted to be a part of,” she says. “Amy and Julie are the best and treat us like family.”



Junk Ranch

WHEN — 9 a.m.-3 pm. June 2; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. June 3; tickets go on sale at 8 a.m.

WHERE — 11195 Centerpoint Church Road in Prairie Grove

COST — $10


Art Feeds — a nonprofit organization that uses art instruction to help kids process emotions — has a new “camp in a box” available for kids this month that’s not your usual art program. “There’s been a burglary at the Art Museum, and we need your help,” begins the description for Art Feeds Camp: Artist Detectives.

“I love our jobs, because I think we just get to imagine what we would have liked when we were kids,” says Art Feeds founder and CEO Meg Bourne of conceptualizing the online summer camp. “Of course, at Art Feeds, we have a big push on the expressive part of creating art — but, also, creative problem solving is really important to us. So we thought, ‘What a fun way to integrate both learning about artists as well as putting those creative problem solving skills to good use — by solving a mystery!’”

A big selling point of the camp is the fact that it’s self-paced, important for those summer schedules that can vary so much. It’s billed as a four-day program, but campers can log in at their leisure to find clues and details about their next assignment.

“Each day, we’ll be exploring the piece of artwork that was ‘stolen,’ and who the artist is,” Bourne explains. “And the call to action for the camper is to re-create the work of art as one project of the day — we don’t want the walls to be blank in the pretend Art Museum! And then we have a clue every day, and an alternate project that has an exploration of them figuring out, ‘Who’s the burglar?” By the end of the four days, they’ll have enough clues to figure out who stole all the artwork.”

During the course of the camp, artists featured are a diverse group of women, including Yayoi Kusama, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and Helen Frankenthaler.

With Artist Detectives, kids can sharpen their art skills in the comfort of their own homes. “We want this to be something that is flexible, where maybe the kids are outside all morning, and it gets too hot and they come in and do camp,” says Art Feeds CEO Meg Bourne. “It’s not too stringent, where you have to show up at a certain time to do a live Zoom teaching video. And the thing that I really love about the art kits that we’re sending out is that they are four unique art kits that will be used each day for camp, but there are so many supplies, they can be used for the rest of the summer. We’re really all about sustainability and longevity when it comes to any kind of programming we build.” (Courtesy Photo)

Included in the price of the class are four I Heart Art supply packs with enough art supplies for at least one or two kids; depending on how you use the supplies, there may be enough for more. Kits include the Bold and Bright Mash-Up Art Pack, complete with 12 bright watercolors, six gel pens, six markers, one paintbrush, a 20-page art pad and a technique guide; the Watercolor Blends and Ink Mash-Up Art Pack, complete with two fine-line pens, eight watercolor pastels, one water brush pen, a 20-page art pad, and a techniques guide; the Batik FX Mash-Up Art Pack, complete with 10 watercolor paint tubes, 12 oil pastels, masking tape, water brush pen, 25-page art pad, palette and a techniques guide; and the Paint and Pastel Mash-Up Art Pack, complete with 10 acrylic paint tubes, 12 chalk pastels, three brushes, a 25-page art pad, palette and a techniques guide.

While summer camps aren’t new for Art Feeds, this will be the first time a virtual camp has been offered.

“For years, we’ve done our camps and workshops in person, so we have a ton of experience in doing them,” says Bourne. “But when we sort of shifted Art Feeds to Art Feeds International and had a wider range of programming in a lot of different areas, we didn’t really know how to do it. ‘How can we be inclusive?’ Covid-19 taught people that things can happen online, so that gave us the opportunity to build a camp that is accessible to anyone, anywhere. We’ve partnered with our friends at I Heart Art supplies — they give us 5% of the proceeds of the art supplies they sell anywhere in the country. We picked out our four favorite kits and built the lessons around them.”

The camp costs $175, but the Art Feeds website has cost-cutting suggestions like ordering one Art Camp in a Box for a group of kids and ordering extra supplies through I Heart Art. There are also scholarships available. And, as with all of the Art Feeds programs that charge tuition, the funds raised go right back into the Art Feeds coffers, helping reach kids all over the world. Last year, the nonprofit impacted 27,000 students during the school year.


Art Feeds Camp in a Box:

Artist Detectives

WHEN — All online resources will go live on June 26; kits will ship by July 1


COST — $175; scholarships available


Categories: Galleries