By Lance Ferguson The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla.
Kimberly Wyant began her career making monsters, but now she specializes in KRaP.
KRaP, Kimberly's Recycled Art Projects, sells art, furniture and jewelry made from recycled materials along with work from other Central Florida artists including pottery by Holly Johnson from Plant City.
Although the store does not officially open until July, Wyant quietly opened her doors last week and said she has already seen a lot of community interest.
"Before my doors were even open, Ihad people coming in and buying things because they know that I'm here," Wyant said. "We've already done two workshops that were successful."
Wyant credits the shop's early success to the audience she built up at events such as First Friday and The Downtown Farmers Curb Market.
Ellen Hunter Simms, executive director of the Downtown Lakeland Partnership, said she is glad Wyant is able to open a store. "Kimberly's presence in downtown Lakeland at the Farmers Curb Market has already just been wonderful," Simms said. "She's got great energy, great ideas.
"She helped the Downtown Lakeland Partnership with last year's October First Friday, which is all about the arts, and is helping with this year's. There is nothing that lady can't do."
Paintings, tables, light fixtures and more -- all as colorful as the artist's hair -- fill the shop on East Main Street across from Lake Mirror.
Wyant started using objects found at estate sales, thrift stores and even the side of the road to make art about nine years ago after buying a house with her husband, Brian.
"It started because I needed to furnish the house we bought because we spent all our money," she said. "So I started to bring stuff home from the side of the road and that was really the joke that started KRaP Art because he would go, 'What's all this crap you keep bringing home?'"
After working on furniture for her home, Wyant said it dawned upon her that she didn't need to buy traditional art supplies anymore.
"I realized I could start doing paintings on repurposed canvases, on wood, on doors, on all different kinds of things," she said. "I realized I didn't have to always use a canvas; I didn't have to buy new things to create art."
The only new materials Wyant uses are foam and cloth to reupholster chairs for sanitary reasons.
Julie Townsend, executive director of the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority, said KRaP Art Studios is exactly the kind of new business she likes to see downtown.
"I think that anytime you have folks who are creating their own products, it's the kind of vibe we want for downtown," Townsend said. "We want those individuals who are artisans and creative types. They just make downtown the cool place that it is."
Wyant, 49, has painted most of her life, even scribbling on walls and her own bed sheets as a child. But it was not until after dealing with alcohol abuse that she started taking her art seriously.
"I quit drinking when I was 23 and that's really when I started doing good art," she said. "I was kind of a tortured artist and I went into rehab when I was 23. I had my 24th birthday in rehab."
Wyant said rehab helped her become a more even-keeled person and her artistic ability improved.
"I definitely think it helped my art because I was very stuck before that," she said.
Originally from Santa Monica, Calif., Wyant moved to Florida in 1998 for a job at Universal's Islands of Adventure.
Before then, she worked for art departments in various television series, movies and music videos and became the creature wardrobe department head for the Fox Kids Network.
A painting Wyant made for 98 Degrees' music video of "Was it Something I Didn't Say" now hangs in the women's restroom at KRaP.
Wyant also painted monster suits for "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers."
"I was actually the snow monster in 'Storybook Rangers,' throwing boulders at them," Wyant said. "That was me inside the costume. It was super fun."
Wyant is learning to use graffiti art to make the outside of her store as colorful as it is inside.
"James Hicks, who owns Vendetta Studios and does tattoos, is starting a graffiti wall," Wyant said. "He does beautiful graffiti art and he's teaching me to do art with the spray paint."
Wyant said she loves public art and hopes that the paintings on the walls outside will draw people to the area just east of downtown.
Townsend said she is glad to see the business help bridge the gap between downtown and Lake Mirror.
"I like the fact that she's branching out to that location off of Lake Mirror," she said. "It's certainly within walking distance of the rest of the retail but it helps expand our footprint downtown. It helps bridge downtown to the activities that are happening around Lake Mirror like with Lakeland Brewing Company & Old School Annex."
In addition to selling art, Wyant hosts classes at KRaP Art Studios that are open to the public and cover topics like mosaic tile projects and jewelry making.
The studio also has a space for yoga, meditation and Kindermusik, a children's music program.
Wyant hopes to begin a children's drum circle soon where the kids make their own drums out of recycled objects.
Cathleen Nelson said she likes the variety of programs at KRaP and already has two of her children, Ada, 4, and Ezra, 6, in classes.
"This is our favorite new store in Lakeland," she said. "We're excited to do yoga here and art classes. We're excited about Kindermusik being here. It's going to be great. There is such a wide variety of things she's going to offer here. There's something for everybody."
Wyant said it is important that the store be more than just a place for her to sell art because kids need a place to learn about art and be creative.
"It's so needed," Wyant said. "The focus on kids, for me, is because they are just pulling all the art out of schools and I feel like art is a crucial part of development. It's as crucial as all the academic skills so I'm trying to reinsert it and create a place where people can come and do art."
KRaP Art Studios is located at 454 E. Main St. and is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.