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story.lead_photo.caption Nancy Hall Cole, teacher and owner at Art Play — A Learning Studio, passes out rulers to her class Wednesday in Atlanta, Texas. She holds classes Mondays through Wednesdays, with more planned in the future. Photo by Kelsi Brinkmeyer / Texarkana Gazette.

ATLANTA, Texas — For many years, area art students looked to Nancy Coe for inspiring guidance, and now after a brief rest from teaching this longtime fixture on the local arts scene is back at it with her own studio again.
Coe, formerly Nancy Martin before her marriage last year, ran an Arkansas-side studio for many years, then retired, defeated cancer and settled into a new town. She maintained contact with the local arts, such as 903 Artisans, but it's been a while since she taught.

Now, she just opened ArtPlay A Learning Studio, with classes for adults and children starting this past week. "I came out of retirement, can you believe it?" she said.

In late February, Nancy Hall Cole, teacher and owner at Art Play — A Learning Studio, saw a building in Atlanta, Texas, that looked like it would be a great art space. She opened in March.
Photo by Kelsi Brinkmeyer/Texarkana Gazette.
With this past year's pandemic putting her at home, she suspects that isolation may have played a role in inspiring her to teach again. "The world just kind of stopped for a year," she said. "I was just feeling restless."

She and her husband Eddie married last May during the thick of the pandemic, but they didn't get to hold a big wedding or go on a honeymoon, none of the things they planned on doing.

Coe said she was driving through Atlanta and thought, well, she'd go talk to someone about a building after seeing one that caught her eye. It was not for rent, unfortunately, so she thought that was it for this spur-of-the-moment interest.

But not so fast. Another building enticed her, just perfect for a studio space at 216 S. Louise St.

"I was driving down to go to a friend's house and I passed the building I'm in now, and I thought, 'You know, that's really a great art space with all those windows,'" Coe said. As it turned out, the man who had it was the same one who sold her her house.

She called, worked out a deal, and here we are, she said. That initial query was at the end of February. "It was that simple, that fast," Coe said. She opened on March 29 with a building just a bit off the beaten path.

For art teaching, the plentiful natural light makes it a winner, along with the size.

"The main thing is the lighting. The windows are three sides of the building, so it's real bright, a lot of natural light. On sunny days like today, I won't even have to turn on overheads," Coe said. "That's how good the light is inside. And then it's a good size; it's room to have tables and have people spread out and all of that."

After a year of being shut down, even keeping the 903 Artisans activities, she personally felt it was tough to endure. It affected her artwork.

Nancy Hall Cole assists one of her art students. Tired of the isolation of the pandemic and missing the creativity and company of other artists, she opened a new studio, Art Play— A Learning Studio in Atlanta, Texas.
Photo by Kelsi Brinkmeyer/Texarkana Gazette.
"I myself personally had a hard time being inspired to do my own art," Coe said. "I don't know if it was the atmosphere of the world at the time or what."

Motivation to finish commissions wasn't coming her way, and she thought about it when she saw this great space for art.

"And I thought, 'I think what's missing from my life is being around other artists,'" Coe said. "I just made the decision." She checked the building, and if it wasn't meant to be, OK. But it was meant be, apparently.

"I believe in that. I believe that things happen for a reason," Coe said, noting that at her Artist's Hideaway in Texarkana she used to hold experimental art days and workshops. This was missing from her life, painting and playing with other artists.

"That's a real source of inspiration for me," said Coe, who's been in Atlanta for three years, a town where she enjoys the small-town community feel of life. Everyone knows everybody else, and she likes that.

"I like being able to walk out my door and somebody drive by and me wave at them," Coe said. "I think that's cool to be able to do that. You know your neighbors and your neighbors talk to you, which isn't always true in a bigger area. Plus, there's just a lot of really good artists down here — Atlanta, Linden, Queen City — there's a good art community."

At ArtPlay, Coe intends to hold classes Monday through Wednesday for both adults and children. She had said she'd never go back to teaching kids, but it's really where her love is, she realizes. She has decades of experience with it.

"I really love teaching children because they're so cool when they catch it," Coe said, noting she may not have as many classes this time around, but in May she will add experimental days on Thursdays with other days open for workshops.

Look for Coe to invite area artists to participate in those workshops, plus organize more activities for children over the summer. She intends to have drawing classes, a first for her, because there's interest. After decades as an art teacher, it gives her something new to do.

"I am so excited to be doing this again. It really is my passion. I love doing the art myself, but I love sharing knowledge with other people more than anything, I think," Coe said. "I think it's my passion."

(On the Net: Look for ArtPlay A Learning Studio on Facebook. Or call Nancy Coe at 903-824-8188.)

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