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Woman will teach art classes at new shop
Our Neighbor to open The Porch next month
A detail of Jo Tarabula’s watercolor “Hummingbird Garden.” Tarabula is lending her talents to help Our Neighbor open a gift shop where the disabled will be able to sell items they make.

The Porch

What: Gift shop and art classes
When: Opens July 5
Where: Mainstreet Market, 118 Main St. SW, Gainesville
More info:

When she was 8 years old, Jo Tarabula made her first painting on an old window shade using paints she found in the garage.

That innovation has become a theme in her life.

Huge cylinders her husband had lying around his work become art in her mind. A ladybug on a napkin eventually ends up decorating a beautiful birdhouse. Found items fill a shoebox in her bedroom, destined to become part of an art project.

"Art doesn't have to be just on the walls," she said Tuesday. It can be, though, as evidenced by the original watercolor paintings that cover the walls of her Lake Lanier home.

She's created advertisements, logos and illustrations for books. She got her first job when she was 19, working for Reed Advertising Agency in Oklahoma.

"I remember (as a sixth-grader) saying ‘I'm going to be a commercial artist,'" Tarabula said. "And that's why I know when little kids say ‘I'm going to be something,' they might know."

Her outside-of-the-box thinking also has made her a great teacher and has helped her tailor lessons to everyone from gifted students to a group of unwed mothers to the disabled.

"Just because you're trying to get somebody to do something they can't do, doesn't mean they can't do it," she said. "You've got to think ‘Wait a minute, how else can I present it?'"

Now, after years of creating art and teaching it, she can't seem to stop. She said she'd like to become a hermit artist; she doesn't like having to be anywhere at a certain time.

But after reading in The Times about Randy's House, a home for handicapped young adults, she went to a fundraising event and somehow got more and more involved with Our Neighbor, which operates Randy's House, Terrie's House and the Next Chapter Bookstore.

Our Neighbor's latest effort is a gift shop and art studio called The Porch, opening next month in Mainstreet Market on the Gainesville square.

"I said, ‘OK, I don't want to teach,' but I guess I'm going to because they have now made me an adviser," she said with a laugh. "And Wednesday is my day, so I will be giving workshops."

Marty Owens, co-founder of Our Neighbor, said the shop will host classes Monday through Thursdays, with different teachers and topics each day.

"Eventually they will be creating items that we will sell in the gift shop," Owens said of the disabled residents she works with. "And it will be a way for them to earn money and also to keep the gift shop in business."

Classes will include jewelry making, sewing, painting, cooking and making bird houses.

Tarabula said it's all about discovering what works for each student.

"I find out what they like and gradually I find out what they know and I take it from there," she said.


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