Stafford resident Stephanie Cox is transforming a neglected old house on Bells Hill Road into an inviting, children’s art studio for nurturing creativity in young artists. She held the grand opening of Art Cart Kids Enrichment Studio over the weekend and is offering art classes and open studio sessions for ages 3-17 and their families.
County government officials attended the Friday-Saturday grand opening, which featured a ribbon-cutting ceremony, free art sessions, pumpkin painting, face painting, local children’s author and illustrator visits.
Cox purchased the 1950s-era house in late June, ending a year-long search for the permanent home for her art-teaching business she launched in 2019 – The Art Cart Mobile Art Studio.
The single-story, brick house sits on 77 Bells Hill Road on a 1.75-acre lot that’s zoned for business use. But inside feels like a charming old home with well-travelled wood floors, fireplace in the living room and lots of windows for natural light.
“It’s perfect,” Cox said. “I wanted to offer a homey, creative space for the kids of Stafford.”
Despite all of its charm, the house has sat vacant for a while and definitely needs a lot of love, she said.
“The roof had to be fixed, it needs paint – everything is old and needs attention,” Cox said. “It’s definitely a leap of faith, but I am dedicated to making this work. “It’s my dream come true to have a place of my own to teach and to inspire creativity in children.”
Prior to opening the new studio, Cox taught art at Prince William Academy for five years. Her journey in education began in 1995 when she started teaching elementary school in California. She is a credentialed elementary and art teacher and has a master’s degree in educational administration.
“People ask me all the time – Are you an artist?” Cox said. “I occasionally produce my own artwork, but my focus is creating art lessons for the students. I love teaching.”
Stafford County staff and public official, Monica Gary, Supervisor of the Aquia District attended and spoke during the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday.
“We extend our congratulations to Mrs. Stephanie Cox, Owner & Founder of Art Cart Kids Enrichment Studio, on the grand opening and ribbon cutting of their new permanent location. This is an excellent addition to the Stafford Community, providing a valuable space for children to develop art skills and an inviting spot for visitors,” Gary said.
Art Cart Kids Enrichment Studio offers an affordable, inclusive and creative space for children to grow socially and emotionally. The studio offers a wide range of classes. For preschoolers ages 3-5, classes focus on process. “It’s all about getting their hands dirty and touching and feeling, not so much about the finished product.” Cox said.
There are day classes for homeschool groups as well as afterschool and weekend sessions for school kids through 8th grade. The studio also offers less structured, open studio sessions on Fridays and Saturdays. Evening sessions from 6p.m. to 8p.m. are reserved for middle schoolers and high schoolers. Example projects are available during this time, but young people are encouraged to use their imagination along with the art supplies available.
“Open studio sessions are not art classes – come with your family, come with your friends and create anything your heart desires,” Cox said.
“The kids try new things. They learn new things. They find out what they are good at. It’s about being out on a limb and trying something new.”
Classes and open studio range from $15 to $30 an hour per artist. For information on classes and how to sign up, visit artcartkids.com.