By Paula Fowler
Vikki Trammell, A Friend of WAS-H
If you are an artist in Houston, Texas, then you don’t have to look far to find a friend who is a wealth of artistic knowledge, a creative force and a joy to know. Her name is Vikki Trammell. She and her husband, Ben Russell, are the owners of Art Supply on Almeda. This store is an artist’s treasure and is at a new location, but it’s history in Houston goes back more than 60 years. If you have lived here for a while, you might remember the store on Richmond Ave or the one on Main Street. The current address is 5301 Almeda Road. It seems like they have always been here to serve Houston’s art community!
We hear Vikki’s name a lot around WAS-H. She has been a generous donor of merchandise awards for our major shows and provider of artistic goodies for our monthly lottery at our general meetings. In addition, she gives a 20% discount to you, as a WAS-H member. All you have to do is ask for a discount card when you’re shopping.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down for a visit with Vikki and hearing about how she arrived at this spot. The story begins when Vikki was born the middle child of seven into a military family at Fort Sills, Oklahoma. So moving around, including time in Germany, was part of her childhood. By high school, she was living in Garland, Texas. She started college in the Dallas area, but was eventually drawn to Houston, where she continued her education at University of Houston, by then, a single mom, working, taking care of a baby and studying! She studied marketing, but always managed to add an art class to nurture her creative side. The job she had at this time was at Art Supply on Richmond Avenue which would eventually be owned by her future husband, Ben Russell. Together, they teamed to market art supplies, foster artists by offering studio space, and by becoming integrally involved with the Houston art community.
In 1997, it was necessary to find a new home for Art Supply and they bought a large 1946 New Orleans-style building on Main Street and began a complete remodel that would include retail space, 26 artist studios and 7 live-work spaces. The intimate bond that they had established with the Houston artists was evident during this time, because they were able to remain open, without air conditioning, through a Houston summer…and their customers stayed loyal!
Then 5 years ago, after 22 years on Main Street, it was decided to move once again, this time to a location at 5301 Almeda Road. This time, the space would be built from scratch according to their own design ideas and would include the store, 15 studios and 5 work-live spaces. It is conveniently located in a bustling, interactive community that is emersed in education right off Highway 288 and near the museum district and the medical center and is just a short trip from our WAS-H building. This was a tough time for a transition because Houston had just gone through Hurricane Harvey and the city permitting department was overwhelmed with the demands of all the rebuilding. And then Covid hit just as they opened! But, once again, their loyal clientele stuck beside them and with a firm plan and perseverance, they emerged with a wonderful new building that has clean lines, high ceilings and artist-friendly light from high windows. Parking is conveniently located behind the store.
When you visit the store, you will be greeted by a staff of 3 full-time and 2 part-time assistants, many of whom are working artists, who know the supplies from their own personal experience. One of those friendly faces, Lucy, has been working at Art Supply for decades and teaches painting in the Heights. They can guide you as you shop and give you expert advice and comparisons between vendors. Vikki makes sure that Art Supply stays up-to-date with new trends by being an active participant in iAMart, a coalition of independent, locally-owned art-materials stores that are committed to helping artists of all experience levels succeed by helping them purchase the best supplies for their individual need and to support and promote local artist, arts organizations and educators.
Vikki also contributes time, and inspiration to others in the Houston art community by being an Advisory Board member of Print Matters and the Community Artists Collective and by being actively involved with, among others, Lawndale Art Center , the Art League and the MFAH Glassell School of Art. She always stays connected has a focus on the art community’s needs and fellowship that includes the professional artists as well as the hobbiest.
I hope that you make it to Art Supply and take some time to chat with Vikki the next time you are indulging your urge for new supplies. She is a multidimensional person who is curious about everything, has a broad breath of knowledge (she’s affectionately known as “Vikkipedia”!), and approaches life with a sense of humor. She directs her own creative talents toward thinking about and developing Artist’s Books. She will enrich you life!