As the home of the Razorbacks, the Bulldogs, dozens of nature exploration opportunities and countless quirky events, Fayetteville is famed for so much of its offerings to residents, tourists and college students. Driving down the busy hills of College Avenue, one can get lost absorbing all of the small businesses that reflect the creative and innovative community in the quaint Ozark town. Fayetteville — metaphorically or otherwise — can be viewed as a 3-D canvas. And hometown artists like Olivia Trimble, owner of Sleet City Art Supply, have literally painted the town in an effort to perfectly portray life in Fayetteville.
Trimble, while always having a relationship with art, has been a practicing professional artist for about 10 years. While painting murals with various eclectic signs and murals, she had struggled to find places to purchase art supplies locally.
“I would always wait until my family and I were going out of town. And I would get really excited because it meant I was going to get to go to an art supply that was indie and cool, regardless of where we were traveling,” Trimble recalls. “I’ve always had this deep love for the experience of being in an art supply store, and feeling the possibilities of things that I could make with these materials.”
As an artist with a deep appreciation for independent art stores and a great love for her community, Trimble says she has long dreamed of one day opening her own small business, nestled in the hills of Fayetteville.
“I never had really felt grown-up enough to do it, but last year, I was evaluating what I really wanted my career to look like. I love painting murals and signs, but it can be physically hard at times,” Trimble says. “I was in bed for ten days with COVID, and had to isolate myself from my husband and kids. I finally decided that I haven’t made it this far in life to hold back on exploring things I have dreamed of.”
The epiphany led Trimble and her husband Jon Tegeler to a leap of faith opening the small art supply shop located at 914 N. College Ave. that would soon become Sleet City Art and Supplies.
After settling on the location, the couple decided to open it up just in time for Small Business Saturday in 2021.
“We had a test run with just a few supplies, gifts and more. We surveyed people about their feelings on Fayetteville having its own independently-owned art supply business, and were really overwhelmed by the response,” Trimble explains.
Guests gave the store numerous suggestions on preferences about items available locally.
Trimble and Tegeler were overwhelmed by the support they received from the community from December and through the spring.
“We just continued to add things, and [eventually gained] wonderful support from the University of Arkansas and practicing artists here in Fayetteville,” Trimble says.
As stated earlier, Trimble is not just a small business owner but an artist as well. If you reside in or have ventured to the Northwest corner of The Natural State, chances of seeing a mural or sign Trimble has painted are extremely high, as they adorn various edifices around various other cities such as Bentonville, Fayetteville and beyond.
Maybe you’ve seen the colorful Uptown Quilt, located at 3959 Steele Blvd., Love Unites Us off of Martin Luther King Blvd. or other murals while driving around town or scrolling on Instagram.
While Trimble certainly isn’t the only sign painter or muralist in the area, she has given her community several photogenic backdrops and beautiful, modern memorials.
Years ago, in South Fayetteville, off MLK Blvd., Trimble had the opportunity to create a simple yet beautiful reminder for those stuck in rush-hour traffic to enjoy.
“On this historic, yet decrepit building (that has recently been demolished), I painted a simple statement: “Share Something Beautiful.” “It’s not a groundbreaking statement by any means, but it served as a way to remind people of the better parts this life has to offer,” Trimble says. “MLK is a heavy-traffic area and so many people drive by. Some have had rough days and some are running late to work. I just wanted to be able to create a bright spot in at least one person’s day.”
Whenever embarking on a new project, Trimble works through her own creative process, keeping community in mind. Starting with the place, Trimble takes into account where the work will be seen. If a sign, the piece in its function is considered. When creating a mural, Trimble thinks of what feelings she wishes to evoke in the viewer and what message she wants to convey it.
While creating one of the biggest projects of Trimble’s career, Sleet City Art and Supplies, she and her husband took things slow. Responding with pieces in which the community had expressed interest they listened. In fact, Trimble, who has become locally famous in these efforts to convey sweet messages and beautiful works of art around town, did not paint the sign on the front of Sleet City’s building until last April, which reflected the duo’s best month in revenue to date. In May, Trimble says they grew 175% over what they had in April, and the store has been expanding and growing ever since.
The store is stocked with gifts, art kits, pencil and pen sets, greeting cards and occasionally, Trimble’s own original work. She has designed most of the stickers sold at the store and recently painted a barn quilt mural to line the entire back wall of the shop.
In her career as an artist, Trimble also says she is continuously growing. “I’ve always had a really odd relationship with art. Carla Caraway at Springdale High School was such a great teacher and inspiration for me; she helped me grow into the process of creating works,” Trimble recalls. “I’ve also been really fortunate to have two very great sets of parents – my dad and my stepmom, and my mom and my stepdad, who is a sign painter – making me a second-generation sign painter.”
Growing up, Trimble says she was constantly interested in the process that her stepdad worked through in creating his own signs. While never an apprentice of his, as such, Trimble says she learned just from observing him in action. And she’s characteristically been drawn to the art of observation.
“I would pick my drink or food based on the design of the packaging. I also picked my books because the cover drew me in. I’ve always been drawn in by the design of everything,” Trimble says.
The start to her career in mural painting began approximately eleven years ago. Trimble had painted some signs and entered them into a small, independent craft show, during which she got her first taste of success as an artist. “Onyx Coffee Lab commissioned me to paint a sign for them after that. Then other opportunities started coming in,” she says.
As a Fayetteville resident, Trimble has long loved the environment that she says she is lucky enough to experience daily.
“Fayetteville has so many cool, new things happening, and I love seeing the really great things in this place thrive,” she says. “I love the really deep, old Ozark roots we have in Fayetteville, and to think about our little town that has all of its quirks and endearing things.
Fayetteville has wild history. And with the project I’m working on now, I’ve been appreciating the fun history.”
Now, in addition to all Trimble is working on in the community and in her own store, she is working with the Smithsonian on a year-long project, gearing up for the museum’s Folk Festival, which will take place over the course of two weeks at the Washington Mall in the District of Columbia. More information about this project will be revealed at a later date.
“There have been opportunities that I could pursue outside of Fayetteville and outside of NWA, but I’ve just always felt an attachment to this place deep inside of my bones. I believe that my community in Fayetteville is so tight-knit and does so well at jumping up to help people when they’re in need. I don’t think there’s any other place that has a better land as a backdrop, or better people. I don’t think Fayetteville can be beat,” Trimble says.
One of Trimble’s favorite features about being an artist is the flexibility that it has allowed for her family and her to enjoy. As a small business owner, she finds herself in turn supporting other local businesses that comprise her beloved community, now more than ever.
A perfect morning for Trimble would include getting her kids to school on time, stopping by Pink House Alchemy for an iced, cardamom, oat-milk latte, and spending hours in the store opening boxes of new product arrivals. She says she also enjoys a day where she can get busy painting a positive statement somewhere nearby, and coming home with enough energy to enjoy cooking dinner for her family.
The future of Trimble’s indie art shop is bright, and according to the acclaimed artist, she plans to keep growing the community inside – and outside – of the store.
“I love owning a place where an artist or other art-adjacent people can find new things they would be interested in trying out. It’s so important to me that we make people feel comfortable enough to try a new item or get started with a new medium,” she says – adding that there is nothing worse as an artist than being in a space where you don’t feel “good enough.”
Whether through her public art, the shop, workshops or collaborations, Trimble says her goal is to make art comfortable for people who may not see themselves as “artists.”
“I want art to be accessible, and I want it to be something that people feel like they can engage with outside the walls of a museum. My core goal is to make art easy and to take away any scariness or snootiness around the community. I just want everyone to be able to enjoy it.”