Lindsay Sutton-Stephens is an artist, mom, business owner, event planner and music promoter. After giving the list, she laughed and said, “It sounds ridiculous ‒ there’s too much stuff!”
Sutton has been an artist the longest. After spending 2½ years at Ole Miss as a Southern studies major, Sutton took a semester off to figure out what she actually wanted. She spent her time in Breckenridge working at a pottery studio, where she painted every day and realized that was her passion.
Sutton returned to the South, where she switched schools and majors. “I’ve always loved color. First and foremost that’s what brought me to art. It was never my intention to do art professionally.”
However, Sutton has now been “doing art” full time for seven years. Before that she had odd jobs and would work the festival circuit – 12 festivals a year from April to October. While fun, it was also a lot of work.
“Contemporary folk art is what I do,” she said, adding, “This ain’t fine art, honey.”
Sutton also refers to her work as “art with levity.” In recent years she has made it a point to incorporate more humor into her work, and the best compliments, she said, are when someone walks into her gallery or festival booth and laughs really hard. “I want people to laugh and feel good when they look at my art.”
Reverse-glass painting is her most recognizable art form. She’s been painting on glass since she was a child in the back of her mother’s frame and antique shop. Now having her children grow up in her store, Sutty’s Downtown Records and Arts, feels right, said Sutton, who refers to her children as “second-generation shop kids.”
Sutton and her husband, Aaron, opened their shop on First Street three years ago. “We always knew we wanted to eventually open a storefront after we had kids. I never wanted to own an art gallery, though, that seemed too pretentious for my personality.”
The couple gave each other vinyl as gifts for every holiday, anniversary and vacation. On the way home from one vacation Sutton said, “Records and arts,” and they opened their shop less than a year later.
With the shop, Sutton said the hardest part is to keep regular store hours.
“It’s hard to be your own boss, but it’s fun having a store.”
Sutty’s moved across F Street this year, and in the new, larger location at 110 W. First St., she is creating a working studio in the back.
In addition to painting glass, Sutton started painting on birchwood glazed with resin 10 years ago. The wood provides a more shapeable option than glass, and she can cut it to size herself. It is also easier to ship.
“I like the resin because it gives the same saturation as glass but much more durable.”
While her medium has stayed consistent, her subject matter has “definitely changed” since having children. She paints more bears and small animals than ever before. Sutton said the change was unconscious, but she likes it.
Another notable change after having children was taking a more active role in the Salida community.
“We are raising our children here. We expect a lot of this community, so we need to give back.”
Her energized activism was also spurred by the 2016 election: “I couldn’t imagine raising children in a world where saying those things … I had to show my children I stood against it, that I didn’t take it lying down. I want my kids to see I stand up for what I believe in, and I’m not quiet about it. I’m not quiet about anything.”
The most surprising aspect of owning a record and arts store was how it morphed Sutton into a music promoter. It started with The Watertower playing in the alley for the grand opening of the store and grew with an alley show during the Gentleman of the Road festival a few months later.
From there Sutton started helping to promote and coordinate music events at the Salida SteamPlant Event Center.
“As much as I love doing art, it’s fun to have another outlet. I like throwing parties. I just do it more professionally now. I like to do things that feel community-based and local.”
Most notably Sutton was part of the team that organized and produced Salida’s Last Waltz. The other team members were Trevor “Bones” Davis, George Mossman and Andrea Mossman.
For budding artists, Sutton’s advice is to “stick with it. Hustle. Hustle hard but continue to create what you want to paint.”
She said a few years ago she quit trying to paint for others and started to paint for herself again.
“I am snarky, loving and colorful. I hope my personality shines through in all of it.”