No place like Haskins House
Music shop and art gallery haven for the creative
There may be no place like home, but there’s also no place like Haskins House.
On Second Street in historic downtown Portsmouth, the front display windows of Haskins House give visitors only a brief glimpse as to what lies beyond — vintage vinyl records, movie posters and artwork.
Inside is a feast for the eyes, as well as the ears.
Charlie Haskins, owner, said the idea for the art gallery and music shop — opened in November 2014 — was a tribute to his grandfather and parents and the way he and his brothers were raised.
“Haskins House, goes back to my grandpa,” he said. “Everybody was involved in art somehow. My mom and dad were painters and they raised all their kids to be artists. We just kind of put everything under one roof.”
Under the roof of Haskins House are rows upon rows of vinyl records — 45s, 33s and 78s — with artists ranging from the Rolling Stones to Ella Fitzgerald. A few record players sit near the front of the store, but once they come in and are marked for sale, they aren’t expected to last long thanks to a resurgence of the once-forgotten format. Cassette tapes and 8-track tapes are also at home amongst the vinyl, as well as musical instruments.
A bookcase displays a library of topics from Vincent Van Gogh to how to play jazz.
Lining the walls and filling all blank spaces are posters and photos of renowned musicians, such as the John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Jim Morrison, album art, vintage postcards and original art by nearly everyone in the Haskins clan.
It’s Haskins’ late father, the elder Charlie, who encouraged the family to be creative, he said.
“I would watch him paint,” Haskins said. “I think I’ve got a few here.”
A prominently placed painting of Pink Floyd’s album cover “Atom Hearth Mother” by Haskins’ father hangs near the front counter, as well as a painting of the Rolling Stones album “Sticky Fingers” with a real zipper incorporated on to the canvas.
“He was a poet, a record collector. He worked at Franz Sign Company for 20-30 years doing art down there. He would come home and have his own paintings or working on a logo or something. He would gather his family around like a drawing table and say, ‘Here’s the job. They want this.’ Everyone would be back up in a hour or so and say, ‘Here’s my take on it.’
“He’s really responsible for getting everybody involved and continuing to make stuff. He was interested in a lot of different stuff, like the albums and poetry. All of his interests have somehow crept into the store.”
Haskins’ mother, Karen, and one of his two brothers, John, also have paintings throughout the store. His other brother, Travis, who helps run the store, plays music during open mic nights.
A 2008 graduate of Shawnee State University with a bachelor’s in art, as well as a 2011 graduate from Eastern Tennessee State University with his master’s degree, Haskins offers examples of his creativity that can be seen on many surfaces in Haskins House.
His most recent wellspring of inspiration comes from his 5-year-old niece, Karlie, and the bedtime stories in which she became the main character.
Several paintings hang on the walls and front counter of Haskins’ “Adventures of Karlie” series, which depicts the caricature of a 2-year-old blond girl in a pink onesie confronting various punny situations in a colorful and somewhat Seussian style.
In one image, “Karlie Deals With Peer Pressure,” the girl sits steadfast in a rocking boat while peers churn the water. In another, “Karlie Stumps a Stump,” the girl reads to a tree stump from a book of riddles.
Haskins said he hopes to turn the series into a children’s book.
“I’ve been working on it for a little while now,” he said. “I had just gotten out of graduate school and was really kind of frustrated with what I was doing. I kind of felt the paintings were too serious and too sad. I was just tired of living with them.”
Haskins began to teach himself how to draw in a style more suited to his new inspiration. The result has been positive to say the least, with the artist getting more attention for his work.
Haskins has been commissioned to do a number of personalized pieces for individuals looking for a unique gift for a loved one.
“I work with the people to make something personalized,” he said. “They might come in and say, I want a portrait of this person done. I ask them questions and investigate. ‘What is this person like? What’s their favorite color, hobbies or whatever?’”
He has also painted for album covers and, most recently, a mural at Cornerstone United Methodist Church, which depicts a Portsmouth cityscape with the Ohio River and bridge prominently featured.
Since Haskins House’s opening, the shop has quickly become a haven, not just for members of the Haskins family, but for all those seeking an outlet to share their artistic talents.
A small stage was built in the rear of the store and has earned a reputation of offering that stage to a variety of acts, from acoustic singer/songwriters, mandolin players, rock bands and poetry writers.
“We opened last November and we’ve had a least one show every month. From that the crowds are like 30-50 people. For this space, we get out folding chairs and stuff. It’s usually pretty packed.
“Where it’s not at a restaurant or a bar, people will get on stage and play their song, and people are just in reverence or something, and they will listen to what someone’s got to share and it’s really different.”
He also said the talent ranges in age from senior poetry readers to high school cover bands.
Haskins House hosts open mic nights every second Saturday of the month and will host Final Fridays during the warmer months with outdoor concerts and an arts and crafts crawl featuring local businesses and creators.
“The first one went really well,” Haskins said of the first Final Friday last year. “We had over 100 people. They came out and they stayed. They shopped and people were buying from local artists. We got a lot of good feedback from it.”
Haskins House is open from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Final Fridays are from 5-10 p.m. Second Saturdays start at 8 p.m.
“We are always looking for people to share their art and play here,” Haskins said.
536 Second St., Portsmouth, Ohio • 740-353-2839
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11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday