+ By Melissa Lauren + Photos by Paula Dixon

Art Things, in West Annapolis, is an institution. The store has always been a woman-owned business, and for 53 years it has been a part of the city’s fabric. Recently, Skye Dorsey Vasquez purchased the shop from Laurie Nolan. The artists’ haven was originally owned by Nolan’s mother, Lydia, and is known for carrying a full range of art supplies for everyone, including artists, designers, and architects. Its atmosphere is playful, especially with its multitude of Mona Lisa images displayed on every wall. The collection, having grown to over 500 “Altered States of Mona,” has a bit of a cult following among regular customers, many of whom often contribute original versions. 

Vasquez was one of those regular customers. When she learned that the store was for sale, she felt it was extremely important to keep its doors open and had to take advantage of the opportunity. She has fond memories of going there as a child with her artist grandmother. During those visits, she often explored the treasures within while helping her grandmother gather provisions to paint sets for Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre and Colonial Players.

Art Things supplies both established artists and beginners. “It is good for the community to have a one-of-a-kind store you can’t find anywhere else,” says Vasquez. Everyone who works there is an artist or degreed in art or art education—combined, they have over 50 years of expertise in the field. It was important for Vasquez to make certain the spirit of Art Things remained intact. Kim Eshleman still manages the shop, as she has done for nearly 43 years. Customers visiting Art Things immediately feel welcome. The approachable staff loves sharing their knowledge with each guest. They take pride in helping people on their artistic path, ensuring everyone is equipped with the tools they need to create.

“It is an amazing place because you can learn about anything you want,” says Vasquez. Not only is she passionate about keeping the integrity of the store alive, she also works diligently to continue developing classes for artists of all ages and abilities in the community. Offerings have included Acrylic Painting, Block Carving, How to Draw Anime, Japanese Fish Printing, Kids Friday Night Paint Night, and Watercolors, to name a few. In February 2019, Art Things began offering weeklong afterschool programs for elementary- and middle-school-aged children. These classes are a wonderful way to supplement school-based arts education. Each class has a 10-person limit to ensure that every student receives hands-on instruction and enjoys a more personal experience. Art therapy classes for seniors are in the works, too. 

Art Things has an extensive inventory that includes graphic supplies, paint, canvas, brushes, paper, and calligraphy supplies, and the staff are happy to place special orders. First-time visitors are encouraged to spend time exploring. There is a vast collection of how-to art books that cover various media, and a long-established Creative Kids department with the latest educational, fun projects to make, including kits that let each child’s imagination soar. Savvy grandparents and parents know that the shop is a great place to get birthday gifts as well as ideas for creative party activities and party favors. The staff can even customize art sets. People who don’t think of themselves as artists can also enjoy the eclectic mix of journals, pens, greeting cards, books, and other fun goodies. 

During a visit Art Things as a teenager, I remember purchasing a journal and being introduced to rice paper. The process of making the paper was even explained to me at the time, fostering a greater appreciation for the unique, white sheets. They were stunning—soft to the touch, practically transparent, with sheer sections that captured the light, and resembled angel’s wings. The rice paper inspired me to sculpt with wire and attach the paper to the wire to make angel ornaments for friends and family members. Artists of Annapolis are thanking Vasquez for being an angel and saving the shop so it can remain the place to get art things for all. █ 

Learn more about Art Things
and its class offerings at