Absolutely Art Smarts
If there’s one store that can capture the personality of a neighborhood in a neat little package, Absolutely Art would be it. This cheery shop/art gallery is tucked in the eclectic and intimate Schenk-Atwood neighborhood. What started out as a bump in the road in 2005 with a job loss for Meghan Blake-Horst ended up being a huge coup for the art community. Blake-Horst had always wanted to open such a space, and was approached by a few investors to start.
An amazing ninety percent of artists represented in Absolutely Art are from Madison (“I can see three of the artists from my house,” jokes Blake-Horst), five percent are from Wisconsin and the rest are from out of state. Find jewelry, paintings, clothing, home décor and gifty items that represent well-made craft. “It’s such a great community we’re in—Madison at large—that is supportive of the buy local philosophy. Not only talking about it, but taking action in it,” says Blake-Horst.
Having grown up a mere block away from the shop, Blake-Horst has deep roots in this neighborhood, but her reach has already expanded beyond Madison’s borders: In 2010 and 2011 Absolutely Art won awards from NICHE magazine, which honors fine art galleries and craft retailers. “My whole goal is to support the local arts community and get their names out,” she says. “Those awards solidified that—it’s a huge honor.”
1) Naturally Beautiful
Linda Stanek‘s wood-carved earrings are gorgeous for spring. These stunners would be a statement piece with a simple sundress or a T-shirt, jeans and sandals. $15
2) Garden Goods
Artist Sue Worth uses reclaimed materials, like plates from St. Vinny’s, to make her garden “wands.” We love that these would perk up your yard year-round.
3) Book Nook
The Little Free Library is a popular book-sharing program that encourages literacy. Absolutely Art is one of two retail outlets nationwide that sell these one-of-a-kind, artist-designed depositories. Blake-Horst placed one on the bike path outside of the shop for passersby.
4) Sew Cool
“I have at least seven of these skirts—I wear them almost every day! You can dress them up or down,” says Blake-Horst of Mo O’Grady’s Mojowear skirts, made out of reclaimed T-shirts and sweaters. $36–$40
5) Show and Tell
Absolutely Art showcases one artist per month on their gray wall—in every medium from prints to paintings to sculpture. “We have such a talented community,” says Blake-Horst.
6) Sparkling Silver
Blake-Horst loves Mary Jane Allen Armstrong‘s recycled aluminum earrings, necklaces and bracelets. Her pieces range from graphic modern shapes to beautiful organic themes. $25–$60
2322 Atwood Ave.