Crafting Creativity:  Ashland Celebrates its First Artistic Salon 

Crafting Creativity:  Ashland Celebrates its First Artistic Salon 

Deidra Bowling-Meade

The Ashland Beacon

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Picture a grand room in old Paris adorned with rich, colorful tapestries hanging on the walls. Large, ornate chandeliers hang from the ceiling, casting a warm glow over the scene. The air is filled with the soft murmur of voices engaged in lively conversation. Elegant furniture, often with intricate carvings and plush upholstery, is arranged in small groups, creating cozy spaces for guests to gather. This was the scene back in the 17th and 18th centuries when special gatherings known as salons brought artists, writers, and thinkers together to talk about exciting ideas. These gatherings in Paris changed the way people thought about art and culture.



Inspired by the renowned Parisian salons, Karen Van Kirk, a retired librarian from Ashland Independent Schools, aimed to cultivate a salon ambiance in early Dec. to celebrate her husband John Van Kirk's birthday. John, a professor at Marshall University and a writer, was the focal point of this celebration, with the added intention of providing a platform for local artists to showcase their work. Broadway Books and The Mill were the perfect locations to set the stage.  

Van Kirk shared, “We wanted to celebrate the arts, artists, authors, and philosophers, as well as introduce local authors to the terrific people at Broadway Books. When I read I Have Always Loved You by Robin Oliveria, I was mesmerized by the Salons in Paris. They seemed elegant, enchanting, and important exhibitions and conversations about the arts.”

The five-hour event featured an evening where attendees first gathered at Broadway Books to share their work followed by dinner, music, and dancing at The Mill. The invitation read: “Flaunt your ART: bring a poem, paragraph, painting, display, dance, idea, creation, or 500-word excerpt from any work you would like to share.” Just like the salons of Paris, the setting in Ashland became a canvas, a space where art, culture, and ideas seamlessly intertwined.

Twelve people shared works of art, poems, short stories, and music. Several authors donated copies of their books to Broadway Books to sell including:  Liz Prather, John Van Kirk, Rajia Hassib, Marie Manilla, Mary B. Moore, Rachael Peckham, and Anthony Viola. It’s a wonderful time to shop and support a local business and authors.

Bex Hall, who is a local artist and writer, attended the Ashland Salon and described the impact of the event: “This had a purpose. It was a chance to bring together in one room people who are actively working on their craft and to share what they are working on in order to stir the pot of creativity. Two great ideas tapped me on the shoulder that night.  Had I not been there, I don’t think the thought would have entered my mind. Creativity feeds creativity. There was an energy that just flowed. As the saying goes, ‘Put yourself in the way of beauty.’ Associate with people who radiate and live their gifts.” 

Hall felt blessed to be invited to the salon event and stated that it touched people in a way they wouldn’t expect.  Hall continued, “To have the platform or the space to have conversations and connections is priceless. It’s all about art and creativity.  There aren’t a lot of arenas to celebrate that. I would do it again in a heartbeat.  I wish we could have it every month!” 

Van Kirk commented, “With the murals, statues, galleries, bookstores, and shops in Ashland, it seems that this community also sees the benefits of creating beauty, whether it is with words or color or poems or quilts; Paris isn’t the only city that celebrates ART.”

Plans are already in the works for Ashland’s second salon event to be held Feb. 29 at Broadway Books and The Mill. Expect to uphold some of the Leap Year traditions with Ladies Privilege and share an apple with the one you love. Whether you're an art enthusiast, a lover of stimulating conversations, or someone seeking to immerse yourself in a dynamic cultural atmosphere, the salon promises an evening of inspiration and connection. Be part of a gathering where diverse minds converge, ideas blossom, and local talent takes center stage. Come share in the magic and create lasting memories together.

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