“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso
Given that statement, Picasso probably would have been pretty impressed with Tasha Messer Williams.
As a child growing up in Illinois, Williams – who is now co-owner and in-store artist at art*cetera in Hattiesburg – got involved with every arts and craft activity she could get her hands on, even if was just coloring in a coloring book. She got serious with the hobby in about the eighth grade, and it soon turned into a passion in high school under the tutelage of nationally-renowned artist Kelly Eddington, who has a learning series through Strathmore Watercolor.
“She kind of pushed me in the direction I wanted to go, which is portraiture – that’s my favorite thing to paint and draw,” Williams said. “She really kind of took me under her wing, and I give lots and lots of credit to her.”
From there, Williams earned a bachelor’s degree with specializations in watercolor and drawing in 2004 from the Katherine K. Herberger College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University. She moved to Hattiesburg in 2008, and opened art*cetera on U.S. 98 in December 2012 with her mother, Michelle Messer.
Art*cetera, which functions as an art gallery and gift shop, features a garden center and work from several local artists including jewelry makers, potters, stained glass artists, painters and sculptors.
“I had the idea (to open art*cetera) way back in high school – it’s been my dream of what I’ve always wanted to do,” Williams said. “I’ve always wanted to have a place for myself and other artists to be able to display their work.”
Williams also offers several classes at the shop, including instruction in watercolor, drawing and portrait art. The classes, which are available for children and adults, meet once a week for 90 minutes and run for eight weeks.
“They’re all geared toward beginners, so you don’t have to have any experience whatsoever before you come,” Williams said. “And they’re always uniquely different, so if you’ve already taken watercolor once, that doesn’t mean you can’t take it again, because it’ll be a completely different class.
“I get a great turnout – I only allow eight students per class, so that I have enough one-on-one time for each student. So they fill up pretty quickly, and then I do get a lot of repeat students as well.”
During the past few years, Williams has been honored for her work a number of times, including two Best of the Pine Belt Awards: Best Visual Artist in 2013 and Best Local Painter in 2018. Art*cetera itself continues to expand and improve, with additions including the garden center, an upstairs gallery and additional classes.
Future events include a Fall Open House on Sept. 7 and 8, followed by Fall Fling on Oct. 12 and 13 and a Christmas Open House on Nov. 16 and 17. All three events will feature sales, free food and giveaways.
Williams also offers custom portraits, but clients requesting portraits in time for Christmas should get photos submitted in the coming weeks.
“Just to continue to progress forward is the best that you can ask for,” Williams said. “We’re always looking for new and different artists, and unique items.”
Haskel Burns lives in Oak Grove with his fiance, Heather. Picasso would have been very disappointed at his lack of artistic ability.