By Ryanne McIsaac
If you’ve ever felt the need to get away from it all, Melanie Smith has the perfect spot – Art Escape Studios and Café in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The 2002 graduate of the Visual/Fine Arts Program at College of the North Atlantic (CNA) took her art skills overseas and is the owner operator of a business that offers a wide range of services, including art classes, student exhibitions and open mic nights.
Smith said she had to change things drastically when the pandemic lockdowns started.
“We had to be innovative in how we moved through the pandemic – creating art processes and products that could be used online, arranging small groups in an attempt to follow the guidelines, moving pre-existing courses online, just to name a few,” she said.
Originally from Gander, NL, Smith says her studio, is all about making connections, and has become a gathering place for people in the community.
“We are an all-female initiative aimed at creating community and promoting creativity,” she said. “The idea is that women artists and creatives in our membership have the opportunity to generate income and maintain their creative lifestyle through artistic opportunities … My hope is that people gain a feeling of security and acceptance, and in that, find possibilities that can nurture their creative growth.”
Home away from home
Smith says her time at CNA helped her become the artist she is today.
“Lorne Bishop (former instructor) challenged me in everything I did; he was a great teacher and he was exactly what I needed,” she said. “He forced me to question what I wanted as an artist and to consider the possibilities I could have moving forward, he inspired me to teach and has supported me to this very day in all of my endeavours.”
Now a busy mother of three, Smith says that while she has been in Denmark for the past nine years, she will always consider Newfoundland and Labrador to be home.
“I miss everything about home, every day,” she said. “There is an understanding between people that exists only in the place you grew up.”
She says that perhaps it is her roots that drive her to create a place for people to belong.
“It can be so difficult to live and thrive in another country,” she said. “As an artist and/or entrepreneur, it can feel impossible to find where you fit.”
Smith says it hasn’t always been an easy road, but she would encourage others to pursue their creative dreams.
“If it doesn’t work out – don’t give up,” she stressed. “I have had to resort to plans A, B, C and D. It’s important to recognize when something isn’t working and accept that your idea needs work, rethink and try something else, but don’t give up.”