Four years ago, Jim Blansit opened Copper Run Distillery in Walnut Shade to sell homemade moonshine, a word that used to describe illegally produced spirits but is basically unaged corn whiskey. He wanted to continue the tradition of moonshining in the Ozarks, but legally.

Not content, however, with simply staying busy making moonshine and a variety of other spirits, Blansit later added live music on weekends to the venue.

Now, he and assistant Darenjenette Thomas are adding a third ingredient to the mix: art. An exhibit of paintings and photographs by three women hangs through the end of the month, and both Blansit and Thomas are optimistic it’s just the start of things to come.

“I believe in supporting and featuring local artists on all levels,” Blansit said. “I love the musicians, and this is a perfect place to showcase them.

“There’s so much talent here,” he added. “I see it in a sense as the best-kept secret in the Ozarks, the talent we have out here.”

“We want (visual art) to be emphasized more,” said Thomas. This exhibit, titled “Mermaids Awake,” was her idea, she said, the idea of “rising out of despair into transcendence and beauty.”

By far the artist with the most work in the exhibit is Jennifer Pierson, whose art has been shown extensively in the Springfield area. A product of Fair Grove, the prolific Pierson works primarily in acrylic, and this exhibit includes an old-fashioned mermaid painted on a wooden board, as well as numerous images of fish, heavily outlined and filled in with strong colors and patterns.

“Animals such as . . . fish have been a staple in my work for decades,” Pierson said. “They seem to effortlessly lend themselves to interesting patterns, absurdly wonderful color combinations and are easily charged with personification.”

Other artists in the show are local artist Staci Copeland and Charity Blansit, the distillery owner’s sister, who now lives in Barcelona, Spain.

Copeland’s works include several pieces where she has laid acrylic thickly onto glass, then peeled it off and mounted it on wood or paper. Blansit, who had only a single piece in the show the day I visited, is a photographer.

To be quite truthful, if you simply want to see an art exhibit and nothing else, you could probably find another show to visit — and find is the operative word here, because Copper Run is definitely off the beaten track.

However, if you want your art combined with beautiful scenery, a friendly atmosphere and a shot or two of good, locally made spirits, Copper Run is worth the trip to Taney County.

This weekend, there’ll also be two well-known musical acts playing. On Saturday, Brother Wiley takes the stage, and on Sunday, it’s Barak Hill and Kevin Cott. Both afternoons, the music will be from 3-6 p.m.

Copper Run Distillery is at 1901 Day Road in Walnut Shade; from Springfield, take U.S. 65 South to 176 West, turn right, then turn left onto Day Road for .3 miles.

Click HERE for google directions…

Hours are 11 a.m.-7 p.m. seven days a week.

For more information, call 417-587-3456.

-Article by Springfield News Leader