Art Adventures with Mrs. Mallory began with an adventure of Mrs. Mallory’s own. When Mallory Smith Hamby left Nashville to move home to Tupelo to be near her parents, she left her job as an art teacher behind. Once back home, she had the idea to teach art in a new capacity, with more freedom for herself and her students, in classes she would have loved as a child.
“In school, we had an art a la carte situation, so I didn’t get it regularly,” Hamby said. “When I got home, it always felt like a huge treat to create.”
Hamby comes from a long line of teachers. She did not originally plan to follow suit; she even got a bachelor’s in interior design, but soon, she was returning to school for a second degree in art education.
She taught art at a few schools in the Nashville area, but when she returned home, she decided to take a break due to her parents’ health and to care for her baby girl, Lydia.
Back in her hometown, Hamby frequented old haunts like Our Artworks. One day, she worked up the courage to ask William Heard for permission to use his studio for teaching the occasional class. He said yes.
Hamby advertised her new classes with flyers and Facebook posts. She employed the help of her graphic designer and husband, Steven, to create a logo and colorful posters. The first class was a huge success.
“I think I got lucky that the people that came were active in the community,” she said. “It really took off from word-of-mouth. It wasn’t just the adults. The kids were telling each other about it at school. I felt good about that.”
Hamby began teaching multiple classes per month and camps during the summer, all with different themes and mediums. She teaches children ages 4 to 12, with the younger children in the morning and the older kids in the afternoon. Because of the small class size, she is able to buy supplies the children might not be exposed to and spend time helping each student.
Some of her most popular classes are holiday-themed like her parent and child class for mother’s day. Hamby also plans classes around movie releases like the Moana necklace class and the Beauty and the Beast oil pastel class. Recent art adventures have included needle felting, glittery “fairy potions” and cardboard minions. Students work with unlikely materials like foam insulation and tin cans that expand their imagination to see everyday items as vehicles for artistic expression.
“I’m really into process-based art. I want to teach them that the fun part is experimenting with the materials,” Hamby said. “I have found the kids like to do two different kinds of things in class: one is something they can show to their parents and say, ‘look what I made!’ and then they want to pull out the cardboard and glitter and gemstones and splash the paint.”
For Hamby, the classes are less about the end-result and more about what the children are learning about art and about themselves.
“I get messages from mothers thanking me for bringing classes like this our community,” she said. “I keep hearing that word—community—and I just think it’s awesome. I grew up here, and now that I’m back, I’m starting to see change in the community surrounding the arts and music and theatre, and that’s exciting.”
In addition to her kids classes and camps, Hamby also teaches paint classes for companies and clubs, partner paint nights for adults and birthday parties.
Hamby’s greatest teaching inspiration and biggest fan was her mother, Mary Smith, who passed away shortly after her return to Tupelo.