‘Kids in the Hood’ blends art, commerce

As you walk into Noelle Newton’s art shop, Kids in the Hood, you are greeted by the sight of a wardrobe full of tutus.

The tutus are all sorts of different colors, and next to them are reversible children’s jackets.

To your left is the checkout desk, and beside that is a table and shelves of chocolate bars.

Newton is usually behind the checkout desk, waiting to greet a customer.

“I’m an artist,” she said, “and I have always wanted to open an artist co-op and finally decided that Hood River was the place to do it. The outdoor markets here don’t do very well with things like tutus, which are apt to fly away in the wind.”

Kids in the Hood, which opened June 29, isn’t exactly an artist co-op, since artists don’t have to pay a membership fee to sell their art. Instead, Newton has a system in which artists who volunteer their time to benefit the store in some way get a 35 percent consignment rate, meaning the artist who made the work receives 65 percent of the sale, and Newton takes the other 35 percent.

Artists who don’t have time or do not wish to volunteer at the store or help in any way with the store have a 45 percent consignment rate.

Artists have volunteered in a variety of ways. Professional recycler, artist and teacher Cynthia Caudill has volunteered to teach classes at the shop, and other artists hand out flyers at markets they attend.

Most of the art that Newton sells in the shop is the work of local artists. She sells some fair trade art but is planning on selling less once more local artists join.

“I am getting a lot of positive response from the artists,” Newton said. “They’re very happy to have some place they can have a permanent outlet to send people. I have a lot of space here, and I am still looking for more artists.”

Newton has lived in Hood River for two and a half years. Before living here, she lived in Tucson, Ariz. She thought about opening a shop in Tucson, but her children were too young.

Now, her children are 7 and 9. They are usually with their mother at the shop where Newton has set up a little lounge, complete with Wi-Fi, for them.

When she first arrived, she participated in the craft show circuit for a while. There, she met some of the artists whose works are featured in the shop.

Along with the artwork, families can attend the art classes that Newton will sometimes host. She got the idea for the classes from seeing how much some children wanted to learn about crafts.

“We thought it would be really nice to have a space to do classes,” she said.

The classroom area in the back of the shop, separate from the retail area, also doubles as Newton’s studio.

“We have a lot more classes planned,” she said. “We have even been talking about pairing up with a winery and doing ‘Mom Craft Night’ and having wine tasting.”

Artists are also speaking with Newton about doing whole series, and she has a back-to-school series planned for the end of the summer. Children 6 years old and up are welcome, as well as parents.

At the shop, Newton sells a variety of different things from candy to fine art. Her tagline is, “Wonderful stuff for the kid in all of us!” and it shows from the frivolous tutus, which Newton makes herself, to the weird, fair trade “Wild Woolies” birdhouses from Nepal.

The shop is separated into different stations; one for each artist. The artists range from woodworkers to jewelers to professional recyclers, and each space has its own flavor.

Newton has a background in visual merchandising, having worked at department stores.

“There are things for babies,” she said, “from babies to grandfathers.”

The name Kids in the Hood comes from a comedy show Newton used to watch called Kids in the Hall.

“I’m not sure how many people actually remember the show,” she said with a laugh.

In the past, Newton has worked as a jeweler and a metalsmith, but once she had children, she decided that the fire and chemicals involved in metal smithing were too dangerous.

“Once you have children, you have to shift your focus and do whatever you can manage to do,” she said.

Newton has a BFA in sculpture from Ohio University, but before that, her mother introduced her to art.

Newton was born in Illinois. Her mother was a bead artist and took her along with her to craft shows.

“That’s another way that I know what it’s like to do the craft fairs and things like that,” she said. “(My mother) would travel into that, trying to sell her beadwork, but there’s hardly any venue you can go to where people see the value of your work because you’re at a ‘craft show.’”

Much of Newton’s work has been inspired by her children. She was inspired to make the bead necklace she wears because it could serve as a rattle for her baby and was baby-proof.

“But when she started walking — after a couple of trays of beads went flying, I decided to go back to sewing,” she said.

The clothes that she has designed come from trying to dress her children. She designed a “Onesie” dress because she always had a hard time getting her daughter to wear clothes, and she designed light reversible jackets because she couldn’t find light jackets for children that she liked in Tucson.

Newton is also planning on having children sell some of their artwork in the shop, so they can learn about the art business.

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