FAIRBORN — When local Artist Terry Lynn Perkins observes a former student of hers out in the community, she may not always remember their name, but she can remember their painting, the colors they used and sometimes where they sat in her studio.
“For me as a child, art was something to do,” Perkins said. “That was my go-to place, using colors to create things. I always looked forward to art classes in elementary school.”
She opened Terri Lynn Art Studio and Gallery, 415 W. Main St., in December 2013 and offers a variety of art classes and paint parties to community members of all ages. Her realization that art could be something she carries with her for life, however, came much sooner than that.
Perkins remembers watching her mother, Donna (Olson) Rakow, paint tulips and flowers on pillow cases as a child, knowing that the paints were not a toy.
She also remembers painting windows for an art project in junior high school. She said normally, artists paint the background first, followed by the foreground. However, for this project, she had to paint the foreground and then the background. Perkins appreciated having to “think it out” to create an illusion.
A military wife, Perkins started college in the Dayton area with some of her first classes based on oil paint. However, she discovered that she prefers acrylic paint as it dries faster which accommodated her lifestyle and art goals better. She started in-home daycare in 1992, where she would offer arts and crafts, and continued taking classes. Once per semester, she would take an art class.
“I had to have art classes for fun,” Perkins said.
However, when she moved to Washington State, she geared her focus toward being a military wife and parent but continued being involved with children. It wasn’t until the family moved to Alabama and she started taking classes again that she looked toward an art career. At Mississippi College, she realized her dream of doing art as an individual instead of becoming an art teacher or diving into the world of fine art.
“When we opened (Terri Lynn Art Studio and Gallery) it was really scary,” Perkins said. “Where would we go? What would the location be? What would be the costs for me? What would I charge? I had no business background, but I liked to be around people. I would learn [the business aspect].”
So she talked to fellow business owners in downtown Fairborn and learned the ropes. She offers painting classes for groups and individuals with pottery or wooden objects, or canvas sizes as small as eight-by-10 inches or as large as 16-by-20 inches at the studio. Perkins has also offered arts and crafts classes outside of her studio, such as the Fairborn Senior Center, a preschool in Vandalia, the daycare center at Sinclair Community College, Vandalia Senior Center, Huber Height Senior Center, Fairborn City Schools, the Fairborn Parks and Recreation Division and more.
Known as the “family artist,” she said several members of her family have her art in their homes.
“They all have a piece of me,” Perkins said.
She credits her three children, Jessica Perkins, 27, Joshua Keller, 32, and Nicole Allen, 35, and grandson Henry Keller, 1, for her ability to work with children to bring art into their lives. She also credits her husband, Jerrold (Jerry) Perkins, who is retired from the Air Force, for his support throughout her art career. She says because of them being a military family, they moved around a lot, which helped her learn how to work with a variety of people.
“In my studio, there are all kinds of painting on the walls and it represents the variety of things people can do,” Perkins said. “They can look at my paintings or others to recreate or make their own.”
She expressed that ageism has no place in her studio — her youngest student is 3-years-old and her eldest was 97. Perkins feels that children can be easier to teach because she has to “teach at their level.” However, even when Perkins’s 97-year-old student started taking classes with her, she told him that when people see the painting, they won’t know if it was created by a 50-year-old, a 97-year-old or a child.
“What I like the most when teaching is that I watch my students faces, young and old, when the painting becomes more clear,” Perkins said. “I always tell them to take a far step back and look at it — ‘what stands out? What do we need to work on?’ I like when they say ‘it’s starting to come together’ — it’s encouraging. I like to tell people how good they are.”
“The more you come, the more you learn, the more you can do on your own,” she added.
Classes can be an hour-to-hour-and-a-half at a time, but she is flexible and is sure to let the art process unfold at its own pace. Terri Lynn Art Studio and Gallery can also host group parties and patrons are welcome to bring their own food, beer or wine. She has a refrigerator and microwave to accommodate party needs — and no student leaves the art studio and gallery without a hug.
“I hug everyone before they leave,” Perkins said. “Hugging makes people feel good, so I make sure everyone leaves with a hug.”
Perkins is an active member of the Fairborn community and is involved in Honor Flight Dayton, an organization that takes veterans to Washington D.C. for sightseeing and more, the Fairborn Area Chamber of Commerce, Fairborn Lions Club, the downtown Fairborn committee and Fairborn Flyzone Committee.