Beyond Paint By Numbers

Southern Arts Society brings out the artist in everyone
photo by cheryl gerber

One of the best-kept secrets

for after-school or summer camp creativity is hidden in plain sight Uptown on South Carrollton Avenue. Tucked away in the basement of a raised lavender residence you’ll find the Southern Arts Society studio and its owner, Rhonda Stephens. Stephens, a Loyola graduate, is an accomplished artist who has shared her talents and skills with students for well over a decade. There are many things that make Southern Arts Society a wonderful place, but Rhonda Stephens is clearly one of the main ones. Her passion for her craft and her joy in sharing it with new artists is apparent the very first time you meet her. She has successfully created an environment where everyone from the most novice artist to the more experienced one can let their creativity flourish.

I was fortunate enough to discover Southern Arts Society three years ago when a group of fellow moms and I were searching for a summer camp experience for our daughters. Word of mouth can be a powerful marketing tool, and this was just the case with Southern Arts. An adult friend and fellow mom had been a student in one of Stephens’ adult classes and was such a fan that she signed her girls up for a summer session. They loved it so much that they were returning the next year and were spreading the word to get a group of friends to sign up, too. I decided to look into it and was delighted with everything I found.

Class sizes are kept small, typically around 16, so each child can receive one-on-one attention and assistance from the instructor when needed. Even though serious work is at hand, fun rules the day; for instance there are themes to certain days, such as Pajama Day and Pizza Day. At the end of my daughter’s session, I was amazed at the variety and quality of artwork produced. During the 10 days of camp the campers are immersed in a variety of mediums and materials. My daughter’s gang enjoyed that particular aspect of the camp because, as they said, It was something different almost every day and allowed them to experiment with various styles and discover their own personal preference. By the end, the students had created frame-worthy works using charcoal, pencil, acrylic, oils and watercolors.

If you just can’t wait for summer, Southern Arts Society has an extensive schedule of year-round classes offered during the day and after school for adults and differently aged children. If you’re a returning patron you’ll notice some impressive changes in the studio. In the fall of 2014, the studio underwent a long renovation making the already beautiful space even more spacious, functional and attractive. Another alteration is the reintroduction of clay, one of the most popular mediums with every age group.

For specific schedules, dates and prices, contact Rhonda Stephens through email at She will be happy to add you to the mailing list and, when your walls are adorned with your child’s original artwork, you’ll be happy you did.