It was the rain. Or maybe it was the excruciating carpal tunnel syndrome pain. Most likely, it was a combination of the two.

Regardless of the exact cause of the inspiration, artist Parrish Monk remembers the idea was formulated that spring day in 2014 at an art show in Cincinnati’s Washington Park. That’s the day he had to dismiss the pain in his wrists and lug hundreds of pounds of his artwork and tent to his location at the park before sitting in the pouring rain for buyers who never came. 

“Something’s got to change,” Monk remembers thinking. He couldn’t imagine lugging around tents and setting up for art shows not knowing whether or not it was going to pay off forever. There had to be something better.

He looked around at the other independent artists in the park that day and realized there was a larger need, not just for him, but for other artists who struggled to succeed. 

“I’ve worked with tons of talented people that have nowhere to place their art or have no one to advocate on their behalf in between art shows and in between craft fairs,” Monk says. 

They do now.

Thanks to Monk’s vision that day he came up with the seed of an idea that has grown into the Independent Northern Kentucky Artists and Artisans Education Program. That organization provides a support system for established, emerging and aspiring independent artists and artisans by providing them with a place to display their art and also learn about the business side of art through classes and workshops.

The organization’s home is The Art House of Fort Thomas, which opened in the fall of 2014. The 100-year-old restored brick home on Fort Thomas Avenue that the group leases now houses galleries for artists and artisans and space for four other organizations, says Monk.

The Art House’s motto is “P-art business incubator, P-art gallery, P-art artisan retail shop, P-art education, All cooperative.” It’s a mission that the 70 independent artists who are a part of the Independent Northern Kentucky Artists and Artisans certainly appreciate.

Jackie Braden, an independent artist and a volunteer at The Art House, says she recently attended a program coordinated by the Independent Northern Kentucky Artists and Artisans about how an artist should approach a gallery. “It was a great program,” says Braden.

That’s exactly what Monk, who is now director of The Art House, hoped for when he came up with the idea for the Independent Northern Kentucky Artists and Artisans. “I just wanted to provide support services for artists because a lot of artists struggle with the business side,” Monk says. “We’ve all heard about the starving artist, but I’m fighting against it.”

It helped that Monk had been a full-time business professor at Lincoln College of Technology, which was shuttered the year before The Art House was opened. “I knew that with my background in business I needed to have a plan on how to do something better.”

That plan grew as he talked to other artists and it eventually blossomed into The Art House in Fort Thomas. Here the public can not only view and buy art from the galleries inside the house, but anyone, young and old, can take art classes such as drawing and painting at The Art House of Fort Thomas, says Monk.

“I’m fighting against that mythology that we have to suppress our creativity until we’re old and the children are out of the house and we finally have a moment to express ourselves and do something with it,” he says. “We’re trying to make sure that people see this area as a vibrant cultural arts center,” says Monk.

That vibrancy of bringing people together is Braden’s favorite part of The Art House of Fort Thomas. “Everything about it is all inclusive,” she says. “There is every level of artist there. There’s people who are just trying to get involved, people who are hobbyists and professionals, so it’s a big mix of everybody and I like that a lot,” says Braden.

Artist Bill Dirkes also enjoys the camaraderie with the other artists at The Art House. “It’s just been one of those things that has exposed me to a lot of talented people and that continues to grow almost on a daily basis,” he says.

Dirkes, a college art major who recently retired from his job as the lead painter of billboards for an advertising company, says The Art House allows him to continue to express his creativity. “I wanted to get back to having someplace to go with the creative energy and I like to paint,” Dirkes says. “I just like to paint.”

Dirkes says he has sold several of his paintings at The Art House and received several commissions for paintings through The Art House. “I certainly love the place,” says Dirkes.

Monk says artists keep 70 percent of the money they earn through sales at The Art House and 30 percent of those sales goes back to The Art House to pay for its business and art education programs.

So does Monk consider The Art House to be a success after more than a year in existence? He hesitates for a few moments. “That’s not a yes or no answer,” Monk says. “And it’s not black and white.” 

Parrish says the first year of The Art House’s existence was not without its trials and tribulations. “It’s been an extremely difficult first year,” he says. “And it continues to be difficult.”

Because even though the Art House helped to bring the first Fort Thomas Art Walk to fruition during the summer, and even though membership in The Art House grew from a shade over 20 to now more than 70 independent artists, the financial realities of running a business have clouded those accomplishments. In some ways, Monk is still waiting for the rain and the pain to end.

“Behind closed doors, one of the things that I struggle with is I’m really looking forward to the day to where I’m not constantly thinking about money and that I’m able to focus strictly on our mission of helping artists and artisans out.”

Monk, however, can sense the sun is about to shine on his idea.

“Before we came here there were a bunch of people just doing their own thing and we’ve created something of a center that connects local artists and artisans,” says Monk. 

“We’ve given them a place to grow and in that regard we are a success.”