Carole Selner wants to help others release their inner artists. To help her, she’s packed you-name-it art supplies into a bright red barn located at the bottom of a hill in Fennville. Express Yourself Art Barn is cheerful to look at, inviting to enter and deliciously deceptive in what lies inside.
For many years, Selner and her husband, Ron, and their daughters were weekend visitors from the Chicago area. Daughters grown and gone, the lure of West Michigan called and she reinvented herself.
“The idea for the Art Barn seemed like a perfect match for a community like Saugatuck, and having spent weekends here when my girls were little, I knew that I would love such a place,” she said.
Once Selner wrapped her head around the idea of a drop-in art studio, she enrolled in art classes, spent months assembling her vision, writing a business plan and launching a website. She never worked in the art field, but the former chemist was always creative.
She opened Express Yourself Art Barn on Memorial Day weekend of 2003, with no real advertising other than a website and, as she puts it, “A link to our fabulous visitors bureau here in Saugatuck.” Her first customer walked in within minutes of the opening. Selner said, “I’ve been very blessed.”
The Art Barn attracts individuals, families, weekenders and private parties.
“We can accommodate groups and regularly have bridal-bachelorette, birthday and team-building groups,” she said. “And I have a loyal group of Art Barn regulars who play in the barn with me every day.”
Selner finds joy in watching others enjoy the Art Barn as much as she does. “I know that not everyone has the time to make their own art, so I oblige with some things that I have done,” she said.
When the Art Barn closes for the winter, she puts away her projects until the new year. “It allows me to see the barn through fresh eyes in the spring,” Selner said. “And, wow, do I miss it over the winter.”