Monroe County residents may soon see a blast from the past on the streets: a 1968 Airstream.
This throwback to another era is not a typical travel trailer, but a mobile art studio and event venue based in Columbia called The Artstream Studio.
“It’s not a mobile business that you normally see,” owner and Columbia resident Jennifer Beech noted.
Beech first wanted to open something like The Artstream Studio over 15 years ago, though her concept then was for a brick-and-mortar store.
About three years ago, however, her idea evolved into housing her business inside of a retrofitted Airstream.
“It started off just wanting to provide quality art programming to the area and evolved into this,” said Beech, who worked in event marketing and children programming. “Because we live in a rural area, I looked at it as ‘what is the best way to be able to reach all these children who may not have the opportunity or the access to arts programs.”
With her evolved idea, Beech, who has an art education background, began looking for an Airstream.
After she found one that suited her needs, she removed all the interior elements of the trailer like the kitchen and bed. Next, she redesigned it to accommodate her needs and as many children as possible.
Beech’s husband handled that interior construction work, which included making stations for children to work on their art.
Along the way, Beech also had help from the Small Business Development Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
“The Artstream Studio is not a typical business and did not have a typical business start-up,” Beech said. “Because of its uniqueness, it often took extra legwork in order to find not only what was needed, but also the right provider to meet those needs. The SBDC had the resources to which I did not have direct access.”
Once the trailer was finished, Beech started working.
The Artstream Studio is a mobile process art studio that individuals can rent for events like birthday parties or school functions.
As a process studio, it focuses on the act of creating, allowing children to use nontraditional materials for projects like making a sculpture out of shaving cream and pool noodles.
The Artstream Studio, which offers a mix of educational and fun programs, includes basic visual arts like painting and drawing in addition to sculpture.
“The kids get to build a skill set they may not utilize on an everyday basis,” Beech explained. “They get to choose their materials. They get to really take in the experience of creating and focus more on that than the final product.”
Although it is not officially open, Beech has taken The Artstream Studio to events throughout the metro-east and St. Louis.
She said the response has been enthusiastic.
“It’s been amazing,” she said. “When kids get to truly take ownership in how they’re using the art supplies, their focus is just tremendous and they’re excited. And the parents are excited, too, to see them creating and not having to deal with the mess.”
“We’re something different,” Beech added. “The experience that the kids have is unique and creative, and it’s convenient for the family. We come to you.”
The Artstream Studio will have a grand opening later this spring.
In the meantime, learn more by calling 618-971-2873, visiting theartstreamstudio.com or finding the business on Facebook and Instagram.