Written by Sophie McNeil Wolf

A few short months ago, Kelli Grantham had not spent much time in Fondren. Sure, she had been to Fondren’s First Thursday and had worked across the interstate at Buffalo Peak Outfitters. Last October, she took the plunge and signed a three-month lease on a space in Ron Chane’s WonderLab. Since then, her art career has taken off.

“I think it was very good and beneficial for me to be in WonderLab as a new, young aspiring artist new to the area. I definitely got out of it what I wanted,” she said. “I met a lot of people, like Marcy Nessel (of Fischer Gallery), which led to me getting my art shown at her gallery. There are a lot of people that I wouldn’t have met had it not been for me showing up at a Fondren’s First Thursday displaying or showcasing my art.”

Grantham’s mediums — oil pastels, charcoal, ink and oil paints — are the tools she uses to create non-objective works that rely on the tangible elements of design: form, shape and color. Her fascination with movement and color are integrated into every piece she produces.

Since graduating college in 2013, her parent’s patio had been her studio. But the brutal Mississippi summers are none too kind and The Wonder Lab came at just the right time.

Intending to say for three months, she renewed and stayed for a total of six months. During that time, Grantham says she learned from the other residents, including Anne Bryant and Jotham McCauley. “With everyone (at WonderLab) it was neat to see how everyone worked. Anne would look at my art daily and be able to give me a critique. She has an art degree and a career in that world. It was also inspiring to others’ work ethic and their thought processes, how they worked through a certain problem.”

For Grantham, Fondren’s notable annual events, like Fondren Unwrapped, were a great time to meet those new to her art. “We had an open houses and all the exposure was great. So many came in and some weren’t exposed to art like mine before. It was cool to be able to tell about my formal process. “

Getting her feet wet into the area also meant other vocational connections as well. Grantham currently works as a bartender and server at Babalu while also filling in at Fondren Cellars. She plans to take the next year to save up for graduate school with an eye towards a masters of fine arts at institutions in New York City.

“I want to do (a graduate degree) for me. I want to learn from professors who are teaching in the style that I am doing now,” she said. In fact, a recent trip to NYC inspired her  – shifting her work from colorful strokes interspersed with white backgrounds to canvases full of color.

“I was engulfed in color. My recent show at Deep South Pops really showed that color in blurred lines between landscapes and color.”

See Grantham’s work in the 5th annual Cedars Juried Show, open through Friday at The Cedars and the 2016 Portico Artists Rising show October 11 at The Cedars.