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Monday, March 2, 2015

A Conversation With the Smith Family, Artists Professionally and At Home

Fort Thomas resident Chad Smith, along with his business partner Mike Wolfram, founded Foster & Flux, an animation studio based in downtown Cincinnati.

Fort Thomas resident Tanith Smith, a professional designer, is owner of Fort Thomas-based Artscapade, which provides at-home art-inspired birthday parties.

Fort Thomas residents Chad and Tanith Smith, husband and wife, have discovered the all-too-often-rare bliss that comes from joining one's vocation with their avocation. Rumi once said, "Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart." For the Smith family, that desire is art. It's a desire they earn money from and personally grow from, and it's a desire they share with others, including their three boys and the Fort Thomas community as a whole. 

Tell us about your background including where you were born, education and professional pursuits. 

Tanith Smith (TS): I came from a family with various artistic talents, born in Mexico and raised in Texas. My first experience with art was when I started painting at the age of 4. A graduate of The Art Institute of Phoenix I have had a successful career as a graphic designer working for advertising agencies, architectural firms and nonprofits. As the Art Director for Phoenix Art Museum, my work represented and supported the largest visual arts institution in the Southwest. When our family decided to make the move to Cincinnati, I decided to stay home with our three boys and continue exploring my love for art. In the spring of 2014 I was offered a position to further my professional career as a designer and we decided that it was a perfect fit. It hit close to home because it is a focus towards the Latina community.

Chad Smith (CS): I was born in South Bend, Ind., and grew up in Elkhart, Ind. After graduating high school I attended college for a little over a year just outside of Chicago. I then moved out West to Phoenix, Ariz., and finished up my college courses there graduating with a degree in Media Arts and Animation from the Art Institute of Phoenix. This is also where I first met Tanith.

After graduating college I was employed for five years at Kitchen Sink Studios, a small 10-person design firm working on architectural visualizations/animations and various motion graphics projects. After the recession hit Arizona we began exploring other venues and eventually found a great opportunity with Mertz Design here in Cincinnati.

While at Mertz I met my now business partner Mike Wolfram and we decided to strike out on our own to found Foster & Flux. We're now coming up on two years at our downtown Cincinnati office and things couldn't be better. In fact, we just won a gold ADDY award for our work on promoting the downtown dazzle event at Fountain Square! Hopefully it's the first of many!

Tell me about the business you opened in Fort Thomas, Artscapade

TS: During the first year in Fort Thomas I took time to create classes and a curriculum that went beyond the classroom and took children to explore new materials and think outside the box when it came to learning about art. With the support of my husband we decided to open our home and create a studio that would be fun and inspiring for kids of all ages. We started with summer camps, then after-school classes and expanded to at-home birthday parties, which we are currently still offering.  

Here are some of the projects created in Artscapade workshops and classes.

Tell me about the history of Foster & Flux. What inspired its start? 

CS: We're often asked about the name, which prompted us to put up this little nugget on the webpage: "So what's in a name? A lot actually. The name Foster & Flux is a creative reflection of our two core values ... to foster the creative spirit and to evolve and grow as animators and entrepreneurs. We strive to stay passionate and inspired by our work and we treat every project as an opportunity to create, learn and grow."

A look inside Foster & Flux's studio, which is located on Elm street in Cincinnati. 

Describe a project you're particularly proud of, and the creative process behind it. What plans do you have for the future?

CS: We recently partnered with the City of Hamilton to create a highlight video for all the positive momentum they currently have going. You can view the results of our efforts here. The video now has close to 25,000 views on Facebook and has garnered a ton of forward-thinking comments from the citizens of Hamilton, Ohio. This video offered particular challenges for us in that it involved filming a great deal of footage at a number of key sites and with key individuals that make up the community in a relatively short time frame. We dug deep and are proud of the results!

While we're not sure what's to come we're definitely excited to continue to push ourselves towards growth both personally and professionally. 

Outside of your professional work, what are some creative pursuits you've worked on/are working on at home? Why do you believe that type of work is important?

CS: I've always doodled since I was kiddo, usually when I wasn't supposed to. I once made a deal with my English teacher where she would let me draw as much as I wanted in class as long as I kept quiet and maintained an A average. I don't remember succeeding but it certainly didn't stop me from sneaking a sketch in whenever I could.

Creative work is important because it (ideally) speaks to a part of you that goes a bit deeper than the need to buy groceries. For many it is something they would do regardless of whether or not they receive payment and that is typically the mark of something special or at the very least authentic.
Creative pursuits are also so very accessible. How much did the paper and pen cost that Poe used to pen "The Raven" or the canvas and paint Van Gogh used to depict "The Starry Night"? 

In both these cases a minimal amount of material was transformed into a timeless treasure. 

TS: We continue to bring art into our home, and create art as a hobby as well as a business.

How have you brought art into your children's lives? Why do you believe this is important?

TS: We have art supplies all over the house and we try to always keep it accessible to our kids. It's important that paper, pencils and paints are within reach because the painting bug hits us at any time. Our kids love drawing and they each have their own sketchbook and we love to share ideas and our work with each other to keep each other motivated and inspired.

CS: To know that with just a brush and some paints you can influence the minds and touch the hearts of countless generations is a lesson that is worth sharing. From a practical side we try to have art supplies/playdoh/crafts handy for when the creative spark hits and have a designated area that's allowed to get a bit messy! 

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