Returning Resident Finds New Artistic Opportunities: Restoration of Old Building Offers New Inspiration | Local News


After 35 years in New York, artist Tara Compton is back in her hometown of Martinsville – renovating both her art form and a familiar old house on Broad Street.

Compton, the daughter of Fred Compton and the late Jackie Compton, studied sculpture at Virginia Commonwealth University and the American University in Washington DC. She then moved to New York to pursue a career with Calvin Klein and Christian Lacroix before selling high-end jewelry while making it. own jewelry on the side.

In 2015 she moved back to Martinsville and started making and selling jewelry with the Uldine boutique which she ran in her father and grandfather’s old Compton Auto Parts building on Bridge Street.

In August 2019, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where she spent time working for Neiman Marcus. She remained there until November 2020, when she returned to Martinsville.

Eventually, she says, she finally “burned out” after years of jewelry making, and her new found interest in painting allowed her to find a new artistic outlet. At the start of the pandemic, Compton laughed, she was faced with the stereotypical amount of free time that allowed her to explore her new found interest in painting.

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It all started with a request from Elizabeth DeVault. DeVault requested a particular paint job, which Compton says surprised her – she had never thought about the paint job before.

This has created a two-year accumulation of paintings – most of which are on display at Piedmont Arts, until March 12, and many of which hang in his gallery, the Tara Compton Gallery, on Broad Street.

Compton’s artistic style varies widely and includes Impressionism, Surrealism, Expressionism, and Abstract. She currently paints a large number of landscapes, she said, and that these paintings have helped to enhance some of her other painting styles by adding depth.

“I don’t paint to sell, I paint to learn,” Compton said of his process of developing new skills and styles.

Although Compton indulges in a wide variety of painting styles, she is largely self-taught. She watches instructional painting videos, she says, but prefers to figure things out on her own by exploring and seeing what comes naturally. This way of learning helps her develop her own style, without being influenced by other artists, she added.

Bringing a classic building back to life

Another of Tara Compton’s artistic outlets since her return to Martinsville is the Broad Street building that houses both her gallery and apartment.

Compton was working in his father’s warehouse when he decided to sell it. She needed a new gallery, so last year she leaned on this big old white house in Broad, opposite the Broad Street Christian Church. She discovered that it belonged to Ted Balabanis, who died on February 4.

The couple realized they had known each other for a long time – Compton’s daughter and Balabanis were playmates as children, she said.

The property wasn’t in the best shape when Compton first saw it, but she said she was able to see the building had “great bones” and was ready to work for it. make the space a place where she could live and work.

Among other uses, it had been a former site of the McKee Funeral Home and a caterer. The upstairs rooms she would rent were full of huge appliances and trash that needed to be removed, and there were holes in the ceilings and walls.

Compton currently lives on the upper level of the building and there are two units downstairs that will continue to be renovated. Compton hopes they will eventually be leased to working artists.

The three months she and the team spent on the renovations completely changed the interior of the building.

Compton said Balabanis, whom she “just adored,” trusted her completely to oversee the renovations. He paid for most of them, she said, while she and her father stepped in on some details.

Balabanis “had such a big heart” that his passing earlier this month hit her very hard, she said. He could see the completed renovations upstairs before he passed, and his jaw dropped at the massive changes, she added.

Compton’s living room is up the stairs in the entrance hall. Up the stairs is a fully refurbished bathroom which needed a new shower, toilet, sockets and tiles.

The next area opens into a kitchen. The area has been transformed into a mix of dark gray cabinetry, natural wood and industrial elements that create an area that Compton says his guests always hang out in. Compton retained some key elements from the previous space in the kitchen, such as cabinets and an old commercial stove that was repurposed to create more counter space.

Compton’s art studio is located next to the kitchen and faced its own challenges during the renovation: the roof was so damaged that new support beams had to be built to replace the drywall. This room had a spacious desk for Compton to work on and a wall lined with shelves to store art supplies.

At the end of the hall was an area, now a living room, which previously housed a kitchen and built-in refrigerators which Compton converted into a spacious closet. Connected to this room is Compton’s bedroom, full of plush white carpeting, gray walls, a mirror-covered chest of drawers, see-through accent pieces, a plush armchair and natural lighting, giving a pure, harmonic and dreamy atmosphere.

Compton has also created a gallery space that was once a restaurant. This is where she exhibits various paintings that she has created and also entertains guests. Also in this room is an inviting sitting area decorated in black, white, gray and beige tones, ambient lighting and various plants that enliven the room.

Also located in this large room was a dining area placed next to a mirrored wall that made the room look bigger, brown wicker chairs, a white rug, and more Compton artwork on the walls.

Compton still has plans for the building regarding some minor work being done with the light fixtures, mailboxes, and downstairs units, but lives and works fully in the upstairs area.

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