BY KATHY MATTER
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
Not just a colorful form of self-expression, art makes for good business in Greater Lafayette. Two businesses – Flourish and Art With a Happy Heart – fuel a growing desire, and an actual need, for youth art instruction in our community.
For the longest time the Art Museum of Greater Lafayette was pretty much the only game in town when it came to youth (and adult) art instruction outside Tippecanoe County’s various school systems. When COVID hit, the museum had to put the kibosh on a lot of programs.
But under new director Chris McCauley the institution’s broadest range of youth art classes ever — from Parent/Child Portrait nights to a series of four-day Art Camps — emerged this summer, and a slate of classes will continue through the school year.
“We’re open to kids and teens telling us what they want,” says Emily Snell, the museum’s class coordinator. “I’d love to offer jewelry, printmaking, sculpture. I’m working on a henna instructor and we’ve even toyed with the idea of a design-a-tattoo class.
Outside of the museum, the success of various art businesses and not-for-profit entities offering classes makes the local arts community happy as they dramatically increase the opportunities for youth to make their mark in art.
Former Montgomery County art teacher Amanda Kennedy, who started Flourish five years ago, has found that she can not only make kids flourish, but that she herself is flourishing as an educator not bound to a prescribed curriculum or state standards.
“I want to make art available to everyone. The idea of creating is powerful,” she says.
Originally opening in a small upper Main Street Lafayette location, her studio had just grown to the point where she could hire her first employee in 2020 when COVID hit. Kennedy kept going through virtual classes and selling her original line of sensory boxes for young kids. Recently she moved Flourish to a bigger storefront at 514 Main St. next to Artists’ Own.
Her themed sensory boxes – ranging from beach to farmer’s market – contain an imaginative array of art materials designed for creative play. The Farmer’s Market box, for example has cinnamon roll playdough (that she makes herself) plus little flowers, veggies, bees and more.
“You give it to them and then step back,” Kennedy says. “Sensory play can be therapeutic for very young children, developing skills before they can even hold a pencil. It feeds the imagination, helps little ones identify colors, and develops fine motor skills.”
Open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, the studio lets kids stop by and draw or play without a reservation. There are a variety of scripted classes, such as elementary art, where they explore a different medium each week, a photo class for teens and a special setup where kids can don a poncho and throw paint at a canvas like Jackson Pollock.
Like Kennedy, Sarah Czajkowski at Art With a Happy Heart has a degree in art and used to teach in schools before opening her own studio located at 2139 Ferry St., where the well-known Sampson and Delilah Hair Studio resided for 30 years.
Located across from Murdock Park, “this is a very magical place. I believed it when I first set foot on this property, and the folks that come…. I think they feel it, too,” she says. A boutique fills the main building and features a uniquely curated collection of art, clothing, handbags, jewelry and more.
“The other building is the art studio where the magic happens through paint parties and classes,” she says. Most of her classes are aimed at youth. “With them I keep it really light and really fun. I pop popcorn and have music. I don’t want it to feel like school at all, but a place where they have creative freedom to do what they want to do.”
“Classes lend themselves to creativity and connection, fostering a sense of self-confidence and pride,” she adds. Her summer 2023 art camp explores working with glass, ceramics, wood and clay. In the fall, when regular classes restart, those art forms will enter the curriculum along with painting and drawing.
It isn’t easy to ferret out all the art opportunities Greater Lafayette has to offer. It takes some creative thinking on your part along with web searches and phone calls. As you might guess, however, some of Lafayette’s galleries offer classes.
Angela “LaLa” Vinson teaches pottery and more through her small LaLa Gallery at 511 Ferry St. The Herron School of Art-trained artist offers a late afternoon Art Club on Fridays for students. Art history lessons, painting and drawing projects, and pottery wheel instruction fill those hours.
Sharon Owens’ Inspired Fire glass studio on U.S. 231 South always has offerings for kids, including a fused glass class (no fire involved) and an ornament making party for ages 6 and up. Teens age 14 and up can register for flameworking. It’s an introduction to glass making and torch work by creating and ornamenting glass beads.
The West Lafayette Public Library opened a Creativity Lab as part of its recent renovation. The space offers a plethora of art supplies plus basic tools such as paint brushes and scissors for making things happen. Ages 13 and up can go in, make something, and take it home. A Creative Café happens on the first and third Saturdays of each month from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. At each meeting teens are offered a new art challenge along with snacks and drinks to fuel creativity. A special summer 2023 activity planned by Teen Librarian Ashley Fletcher will use the lab to make water cannons.
Fletcher says more and more people are becoming aware of their “Library of Things,” which allows library card holders to check out creative tools, such as a soldering iron, light box, desktop magnifier or even a round loom, among other items, for home use.
Margerum City Hall in West Lafayette offers year-round youth art classes as well as camps in the summer with veteran teacher Jeanette Rehmel, affectionately known as “Miss Jeanette.” Drawing, painting and mixed media camps continue into late summer this year as well as creative expression. Other topics explored in youth classes include textile creation/tie dye and sculpy/sculpture. In Lafayette check out the McAllister Recreation Center, 2351 N. 20th St., for sporadic art activities.
Outside regular school hours various public and parochial schools in the county offer a Kidz Art program. Czajkowski taught in it before going out on her own and says it fills “an absolute need for more art instruction.” The Arts Federation of Tippecanoe County also offers a free After School Arts Program for elementary and high school students during the academic year in the TAF studios at Sixth and North streets in Lafayette. Some of the programs are visual art, but don’t be surprised to find dance, ukulele and guitar.
Every summer the Lafayette School Corp. offers Summer Challenge Art to keep interested students plugged into their creativity during the summer break. To participate in this summer school program students must live in Lafayette but don’t have to be enrolled at Jefferson High School.
Last, but not least, who would think of finding art classes in an apple orchard? But you’ll find Kennedy from Flourish at Wea Creek Apple Orchard at 10:30 a.m. Mondays this summer, as long as the weather cooperates. In an activity born out of the pandemic, youngsters can pursue anything from painting to paper lanterns outside “in a beautiful open field at the top of the orchard,” Kennedy says.
“There’ll be at least eight to 10 creative play stations to inspire messy fun and beautiful process artworks for every artist.” ★