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Three Main Street America Staff members standing in front of a mural in Marion, Iowa.

Marion, Iowa © Tasha Sams

About

We work in collaboration with thousands of local partners and grassroots leaders across the nation who share our commitment to advancing shared prosperity, creating resilient economies, and improving quality of life.

Overview Who We Are How We Work Partner Collaborations Our Supporters Our Team Job Opportunities Contact Us
Two community members in Emporia Kansas pose with a sign saying "I'm a Main Streeter"

Emporia, Kansas © Emporia Main Street

Our Network

Made up of small towns, mid-sized communities, and urban commercial districts, the thousands of organizations, individuals, volunteers, and local leaders that make up Main Street America™ represent the broad diversity that makes this country so unique.

Overview Coordinating Programs Main Street Communities Collective Impact Awards & Recognition Community Evaluation Framework Join the Movement
Dionne Baux and MSA partner working in Bronzeville, Chicago.

Chicago, Illinois © Main Street America

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Looking for strategies and tools to support you in your work? Delve into the Main Street Resource Center and explore a wide range of resources including our extensive Knowledge Hub, professional development opportunities, field service offerings, advocacy support, and more!

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People riding e-scooters in Waterloo, Iowa

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Woman and girl at a festival booth in Kendall Whittier, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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August 24, 2020 | Business Spotlight: Bottoms Up Art Center | 

August is National Black Business Month. In celebration of the month, we are spotlighting Black-owned businesses in our Main Street districts. Today, we're featuring an interview with business owners Phyllis and Arthur Fisher, Sr. The Fishers own Bottoms Up Art Center in Opelousas, Louisiana, where they provide a strong foundation in various areas of the arts. Bottoms Up Art Center focuses on providing students with lessons in voice, dance, drumline, theater, piano, and other musical instruments as well as martial arts.

They also show students how the arts can enhance and be integrated with academics, such as using a knowledge of music to learn math. "It seems easy, but it took a lot of work and effort to teach six-year-old children how to read rhythmic notation and then transform the rhythmic notation into fractions and counting money," said Phyllis Fisher.

The Fishers have only been in business since January 2020, but Phyllis Fisher brings 34 years of music experience as a former music teacher. Now retired, not only is she using her teaching experience to support the new arts center, but Fisher is also using her teacher retirement funds to begin the Bottoms Up Art Center program. In addition these funds, the Fishers have pursued grants and hosted fundraising events to purchase equipment for their students.

The building in Opelousas the Fishers purchased to house the Bottoms Up Art Center was originally a club in an area on Main Street where African Americans used to have barbershops, community grocery stores, and other businesses. Their first step with their new property was to renovate. "This area has really fallen," Phyllis Fisher told us, "but my husband and I are trying to make a difference on our own." They have additionally purchased the lot next door where they intend to create a pavilion for outdoor performances.

Read more about the Fishers and Bottoms Up Art Center in the interview below.

Just a few of the classes taught at the Bottoms Up Art Center. Photo credit: Phyllis Fisher


What drew you to owning your own small business? Why did you become a small business owner?

I am a retired 34-year music teacher in the public school system. I taught Physical Ed. and Special Ed. in St. Landry Parish. I taught music in East Baton Rouge and Lafayette Parishes. I had to travel to other parishes to teach in my field which is music education. St. Landry did not offer music then and still does not offer elementary music in the schools. The needs of those children who are gifted in the arts are not being met. Some students learn through music, and it has always been my dream to come back home and contribute to that neglect. My concern is to meet the needs of students who are low achievers in math and other students who just need to use their leisure time wisely. 


What do you like most about owning and running your own business? Any particular successes you’d like to share?

I am eager: to produce a slew of fundamentally sound musicians who will know how to play music by reading music; to produce a massive drum-line of young children in the elementary school level [view video of six-year-old children in a recent drum performance]; to produce a choir of harmonious singers; to build a city concert band; to produce a class of disciplined martial art students.

I have taught many students throughout my career, but two of them I would like to mention as my successors. One of my piano students, Christopher Carmouche from Beau Chene High School in Sunset, Louisiana, is now an Emmy award winning recording artist, producer, engineer, mixer, and writer, in Atlanta, Georgia, recording for well-known artist such as Janell Monae, Usher, Outkast, Lil John, and more. Another student, Tiffany Favorite, my Capitol High choral student from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, continues to thrive as she competed in Sunday's Best Competition reigning as #4 in the fourth season.

I have taught many students who are now successful in the music field. I have distributed and purchased many instruments to students throughout my career who could not afford instruments throughout the years, who have gone on to play in college bands. There's so much to say about my career and my passion for music, but I would like to say that I am also a gospel recording artist having already produced two CD's as well as a live recording.   


Why did you choose to locate your business where you did?

After watching the closed and dilapidated building for years, I began to have a vision where children could come and hang out and do something productive like sharpening their saws in the field of the arts, a place where students could come and express themselves through the arts, and a place to keep kids busy and out of trouble. The building is in the center of Opelousas where everyone can participate.

The building is in an area that was/is called "Down The Bottom". This is why I chose to name my business "Bottoms Up Art Center," because it’s a new day. This area was an area where African Americans were known to create businesses such as clubs with performances from popular performing artist, barbershops, community stores, among other businesses in that area. The area needs a lift. This building is as old as 70 to 100 years old and has a lot of history. The previous owner still lives and shares a lot of historical stories with us.

Photos of the property at 427 West Landry Street before and after the Fishers began their renovations. Photo credit: Phyllis Fisher

What challenges have you faced as a business owner?

Having only been opened since January 2020, my greatest challenge was to have to shut down after so many students signed up in such a short time. They were disappointed as I was. The renovation of the building was really costly, and we still have more renovations especially on the outside. I've purchased dividers in order to attempt to start my program again but I'll take my time with that. I'm loving it all and can't wait to get back.


How has COVID-19 affected your business and what resources would be most helpful to you?

Covid-19 has definitely affected my business. First of all, we are closed and have shut down. While we are closed, we're having to prep up the building in ways to protect the students by warding off any germs from person to person. I have acquired some homemade dividers to be placed between each student, purchased wall hand sanitizer machines, wall hand towel machines, and soap machines in the bathrooms. In the nearest future, I will purchase a classroom piano system where the students will be connected to me instead of me standing over their shoulders, where they will hear me through their headphones. They will also use computers for software support. 


What advice would you give others about how to start a business?

Be encouraged and God will provide and make a way as he did for us.


Anything else you’d like to add?

Bottoms Up Art Center will have an outdoor pavilion next to the building for live performances. Bottoms Up Art Center will also sponsor the "Tripe Festival" annually on the first Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of June.

Thank you to Phyllis and Arthur Fisher, Sr., in Opelousas, Louisiana, for sharing their story with us! Join us this month (and all year long!) in highlighting Black businesses in your Main Street. Get started by downloading these social media graphics.