The centerpiece of Teresa Yarbrough’s Expressions Art Gallery, inside the Market in the Mall small business emporium inside Glenbrook Mall, is a faithful rendering of her father, Richard Ridley, who was Fort Wayne’s first African-American fireman. Another portrait, commissioned by local author Carol Butler for a book project of firsts: Toni Morrison, Mae Jamison, Hattie McDaniel, Shirley Chisholm, and Fort Wayne’s first firewoman, Genois Wilson. There are airbrush pieces, charcoal, pastel, and acrylic paintings. “I like to work with my hands more,” Yarbrough said. There’s a portrait, a 911 dedication that uses a retired firehouse as a frame.
Some of the pieces “are seasoned,” Yarbrough said, laughing. She’s looking to do more work in 2019 on her art, to make it a full-time gig. The Fort Wayne-native always grew up with art but hasn’t any formal training outside of airbrush classes and some commercial art courses; the latter she dropped out of because she entered the Air Force.
After a couple of moves back and forth (she lived for a time in California), Yarbrough is here now. Her mother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; so Yarbrough helps out there. Her mother got her into art. “I always felt she was a great artist,” she said.
Her studio is found on the second floor of Glenbrook. The best way to find it? Park in the lot by the Apple Glen sign, take the elevator upstairs up the second floor and Market in the Mall is right there.
Yarbrough got pretty close to full-time professional artist back in 2014, with her previous studio, but it was located off the beaten path and she had trouble driving traffic to her shop. She did her art, but she led workshops with kids and hosted spoken word events.
She saw an ad for Market in the Mall on the Facebook page, Fort Wayne Creatives. Out of the over 70 small business in the emporium, Yarbrough is the only artist. Market in the Mall advertises and sells on Amazon, eBay, and Etsy.com, in addition to the in-store activity. The emporium doesn’t want its renters in on the weekends because of the conflict of interest; that’s what the sales team is for. Yarbrough likes the weekends off and the low overhead.
She doesn’t expect to derive a lot of business from the location, but it does give her a little validity. In our gig culture, where millionaires are made uploading content on YouTube from their bedrooms, where office space is no longer a requirement for credibility, professional artists still need a wall somewhere to hang their wares.
Yarbrough admitted her work is maybe maybe too Afro-centric for the emporium. It’s the black-artist lament. Can one be their black self and still get that cross-cultural money? She might have to go more abstract and scenic, more of a home décor kind of approach. “I’ve been here for two and half months,” she said. “I believe I got one sale from someone I know.” (Laughs.)
She accepts portrait commissions from the store, but, outside of it, she will be ramping up her mobile paint and sip events, for both adults and children. Yarbrough is working on a gig now about ocean conservation for a potential movie; pretty big, can’t really talk about it. The Fort Wayne Ink Spot will do a story about it when we can.
To view Theresa’s work online: ExpressionsStudioGallery.com