While the COVID-19 coronavirus has led to school closures and left families learning, working and staying at home, it hasn’t stopped Troy University alumna Barbara Grimes from sharing her love of art with others.
Grimes, a 1978 TROY graduate, is the owner of Barb’s on Mulberry boutique in Montgomery, a shop in which she sells her seasonal creations, artwork and personalized gifts, while also teaching art classes and hosting creative and customizable birthday parties and gatherings.
“I love to teach and I love working with children,” Grimes said. “I just started thinking about what I could do to continue teaching art while the children are all at home. I go live on my Facebook page each day at 1 and 1:30 p.m. The lessons are designed for children to provide them with something fun and creative to do, but it really is for anyone who wants to participate.”
The virtual lessons take students through creating a special piece of art such as fish or animals. Leading up to the Easter season, lessons included bunnies, a donkey and palm branches for Palm Sunday.
So far, her Facebook Live art lessons have proven to be a big hit with her videos routinely receiving more than 1,000 views with one topping the 3,000 views mark. She also encourages participants to post photos of their work to her Facebook page so everyone can enjoy their work.
Grimes certainly is no stranger to teaching. In addition to classes offered through her shop and special events she normally holds throughout the breaks in a normal school year, she also teaches art at Montgomery’s Success Unlimited Academy.
“I felt like I really wanted to do something to give back,” she said. “I’ve been teaching art at Success Unlimited Academy for three years and it has been the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.”
One of Grimes’ students, Taniyah Flynn, an 11th-grader at Success Unlimited, recently had her artwork, “Everyone Counts,” hanging as a part of the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts’ “You Count: Student Response to the 2020 Census” exhibit.
“It is so exciting to my high school students and to me to have their work hanging as a part of an exhibit,” Grimes said. “I love to see the enjoyment they take from their work.”
And while students are no longer meeting in-class, Grimes continues to work with them through Zoom meetings. She is also considering a virtual exhibit so her students can share their artwork with others.
Grimes admits that staying connected with her school students, offering her daily Facebook art lessons and keeping up with her store keeps her very active. There was a time where she wasn’t sure she wanted to be bothered with a retail shop. Her husband, David, also a TROY graduate and a former state legislator, had other plans.
“I didn’t even want the store at first,” she recalls. “I was content with traveling around to craft shows. That was really big around that time. After my mother died, my husband, David, walked into a little shop one day and asked if they had ever thought about leasing it out. I’ve owned the shop now for 30 years, and it has worked out great.”
Grimes has seen the retail business change through the years.
“The retail business has changed. As people are now able to order things online, there isn’t as much foot traffic as there once was,” she said. “My shop continues to be busy around major holidays for seasonal gifts. I generally open for retail business six weeks before each holiday. I’ve been very busy for Easter.”
Her ability to adjust to changing times certainly has come in handy in the midst of the uncertain times brought on by a global pandemic. She says using Facebook to help others during the current situation was just a natural progression in her desire to serve others.
“I think I look forward to this as much as the kids do,” Grimes said. “We are just all in this together, making the best of the situation, and this gives all of us something fun to look forward to each day.”