When you work in radio, it's tough to find time to get out and have much of a life. That's why it's great when there's a place in town that not only caters to your hobbies and interests, but also just happens to be run by someone who shares those passions and loves talking with you about them.

I try to make it over to Terp's Toys & Comics in Temple as often as I can because that's exactly the sort of environment owner Matthew Terpening has created at 808 S. 31st St. Terp's is a welcoming place friendly to families, artists, readers, and collectors, and if you strike up a conversation with Matt, chances are an hour will go by in an instant.

Now anyone who loves to draw can leave their mark on this fantastic local shop.

If you're an artist of any talent level and want to share your work with the Central Texas community, just talk to Matt about decorating one of his ceiling tiles. It won't cost you a dime (other than your art supplies, anyway), and you can take the tile home and work on it at your own pace.

Matt came up with the idea after all the conversations his character mural sparked.

"That mural over there that I've been working on for 8 months has been such a conversational piece that it's gotten other people who may be afraid to show their stuff off to ask about the opportunity to at least show it off in here," Matt told me Friday. "That way if people compliment them on it, it gives them a little confidence."

Mural by Matthew Terpening, Photographed by Aaron Savage, Townsquare Media
Mural by Matthew Terpening, Photographed by Aaron Savage, Townsquare Media

"I just give them an extra ceiling tile from the back and they can take it home with them. That way there's no pressure, no time limit, and it makes it so that they feel like they've accomplished something real nice. Sometimes I think when they finish it they may be embarrassed by it and don't know their own talent, so we encourage them to come in and just try it."

So far there are 13 tiles on display, including three Matt worked on himself. A few artists are still working on theirs at home, so if you frequent the shop you'll see more showing up.

(If you see your work in the photos below and would like me to credit you by name, please email me at aaron.savage@townsquaremedia.com and I'll be happy to do so.)

When I was growing up, I think there was a certain stigma surrounding comic book stores, as if people expected them to be exclusive and manned by gatekeepers. That's certainly not the case at Terp's. In fact, Matt's mission is to get kids interested in reading, using their imaginations, and creating, as well as offering a space where parents can pass on their love of comics, sci-fi, and collecting to their kids and grandkids.

"You see all types from all different generations, and that's what's awesome about it," he said during our conversation Friday evening.

Kids who come in and take the mural challenge can even get a free book. Just talk to Matt and he'll ask you to find a certain character on the wall. If you spot them, you'll get to choose a book from the prize corner. Once report cards start coming in, kids with good grades could also be eligible for prizes at Terp's.

While we were talking, Matt mentioned that kid's reading parties are returning to Terp's in October, kicking off with a reading of Black Panther. Kids can read along, sing along, then make toys for dogs and cats at the Temple Animal Shelter.

There'll be plenty more events at Terp's. You'll get notices about them if you like the Facebook page.

Whether you're an artist wanting to get your work seen or a reader looking for a place to share your love of comics and storytelling with your family, there's lots to love at Terp's. If anything, you should at least stop by and strike up a conversation with Matt. It's a great way to pass the time.

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