By Morgan Bryce
Art collectors or enthusiasts in the Auburn-Opelika area can add Western-influenced pieces to their collection by shopping Pacific Artist’s Studio, located at 1222 Staley Ave.
Owned and operated by longtime friends Teri Zaccaro and Kim Hughes, the studio was originally opened by the two in the late ’90s in Oxnard, California. Zaccaro explained that the idea behind this business venture was conceptualized shortly after the two met through a Picassiette (mosaic) class.
“(What has helped us do this for more than 20 years) is that we both have the same interests. Kim will bring in a new idea, or I will, and sometimes even we may not like something at first, but we’ll give it a good try,” Zaccaro said.
In California, the bulk of the studio’s work was based on commissions, from small pieces made for private individuals or large-scale projects including mosaic-based iguana fountains in front of the Mary Pickford Theater in Palm Springs and a large dragon occupying the middle of the Simi Valley Town Center. At one point, their artistic footprint extended to “shops throughout Southern California.”
Nearly a decade after opening the studio and a whole lifetime of residing in California, Zaccaro and her husband Joe relocated to Alabama for a business opportunity. In 2007, she reopened the studio at its present location and reunited with Hughes four years later when her and her husband Evans moved to Opelika.
The two decided to keep the studio’s name the same so that clients back on the West Coast could easily connect with them in their new home in Alabama. Next door to the studio is a shop where Joe runs his dragcar racing business, “Zaccaro Racing.”
While the bulk of their work is derived from their Pacific Coast roots, they have adapted their styles to incorporate some Southern influences and techniques. A major art form that has been in recent demand are cremation urns made from gourds, often adorned with rusted metal that is repurposed into “beautiful shapes and angles.”
“I’d say that our art in (California and the Pacific Coast) is a bit modern and abstract, while the Southern form is more realistic, using materials that are native to their respective areas. We had a lot of sand and beachy items (incorporated into their art) where we were before,” Hughes said.
Several times throughout the year, the two will travel the country to take new art classes, later bringing home that knowledge and sharing it with students. Current classes offered at the studio include ceramic baskets, contemporary ceramics, fused glass, jewelry making, memory boxes and more.
Samples of the two’s larger pieces can be seen and purchased in-studio, while some of their smaller artwork can be found at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art’s gift shop.
While walk-ins are not plentiful, the two said they are optimistic for the studio’s future because of that area’s recent uptick in development and growth the last two years, which includes their across-the-street neighbor in Dorris Signs, which relocated there from downtown earlier this year.
“I think we’re the best-kept secret in Opelika. After a recent (grand-opening) party at Dorris Signs, we had a flood of people come into the shop and see that we were here, people that have lived here all their lives … people that have lived here all their lives and didn’t know that we were here,” Zaccaro said. “This area didn’t have the best reputation for a while, but that’s all been cleaned out, and there’s a bunch of new homeowners and businesses that are here now.”
Those interested in commissioning a piece from the studio can call Hughes at 805-469-8686 or Zaccaro at 334-787-7601 to discuss the project. Hours of operation vary, but their normal hours of operation are 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.