“Always interested in the arts, we had early careers in the restaurant and plumbing businesses,” Vivian shares. “We married and settled in Oxford, MS in 1999 where we began our art careers and business in earnest. We are developing a sort of arts compound where we live, work and promote regional artists. We have taken our time reclaiming the acreage we acquired and look forward to the coming additions/evolution, including a sculpture garden in the field outside our home.” The arts compound she’s referring to is the rural art gallery she and Walter opened three years ago, sitting off the ground in a treehouse-like setting, aptly named The Oxford Treehouse Gallery, just 200 yards from their home. The gallery, as well as their home, houses a lot of their own art, too. Walter is an artist/blacksmith and Vivian is a painter and block printer.
Creating a space that was colorful, informal, incorporated furniture inherited from Betsy’s grandparents (traditional on one side and mid-century from the other), and that could handle two wild boys, was essential. Betsy is most thankful for the former stables that became her studio, originally thinking that she would have to rent a studio before they found their home. Betsy explains, “The feeling of old time past and rustic white wood are so brand-friendly. It’s a luxury to work while the boys are home and at night without leaving the house. I also bring them into the studio to make projects like tie dying and painting. Plus I like for them to be exposed daily to my work and to art and design — I hope to inspire them.” She also never takes the open space for granted, especially during the long winters. Betsy adds, “They run around, build obstacle courses, and shoot Nerf bullets all over the place. It really helps keep them ‘out of my bubble’ and I can see everything they’re doing while cooking, etc.”
Nestled down a country road, past oak trees, off the road and out of view from anyone passing by, sits a home built from the ground up, for and by homeowners and artists, Vivian and Walter Neill. Also on the large, wooded property is the blacksmith studio of homeowner Walter, a full chicken coop, and the art gallery that the Neill’s run together, Oxford Treehouse Gallery.
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