Denise Mendez (center) conducts a glass making class in Hollywood. (Jim Rassol, Sun Sentinel )
The once-struggling artist has found a new way to make a living: “art and fun” classes. And several artist-entrepreneurs in South Florida are profiting from the trend.
From bridal parties to Baby Boomers, people are going to relax, rediscover their artistic roots or just have fun at localbusinesses that offer painting, pottery, stained glass and crafts. While online coupons may prompt the initial visit, patrons often become hooked, returning again and again to create art and socialize with friends.
“People are working really hard these days. During their time off, they want to make it useful and beneficial. They can go out with friends and colleagues and still do something creative,” said Rebecca Sanders, art school director at the Boca Museum of Art.
Local businesses that offer “art and fun” classes include Art-Sea Living in Boynton Beach, MiYCeramics in Hollywood and The Fun Palette in Miami Beach. The companies – all in business for four years or more – have weathered the recession and say they’re thriving. Online deals from Groupon and Living Social and social media including Facebook have make communities aware of their businesses.
Classes and other instruction vary in price from $25 for a wine-glass painting class to $100 for several weeks of painting classes. Some studios offer monthly memberships.
Denise Mendez, who owns MiY Ceramics, said people want to spend their money on “experiences.” Many MiY Ceramics customers are in their 60s, some who enjoyed creating pottery or other art in their younger years.
“Now they have more time. The kids have grown up. They don’t have as many responsibilities,” said Mendez, who has operated the pottery and glass studio for 3 1/2 years.
Ginger Socolofsky, 53, of Boynton Beach, is a retired school principal from Chicago who enjoys creating mosaics and watercolor painting at Art-Sea Living in Boynton Beach. Socolofsky said she finds the studio relaxing and has been going for at least three years for “me” time.
“I think every woman who does so many jobs at one time needs her own time,” said Socolofsky, a retiree who volunteers at a hospital. She often gives the art objects she creates as gifts for friends and family.
The art businesses offer serious instructional art as well as more social classes, children’s camps, and even corporate parties.
“In this economy, you have to have different avenues for revenue,” said Barbara Lentz, who founded Art-Sea Living in 2003 – before online coupons made “art and fun” classes a social trend.
Her most popular class is Saturday night’s “wine glass painting” where customers paint wine glasses to take home. They often bring their own food and wine to enjoy during the class.
Shannon Catania, 28, Boynton Beach has taken most of the classes at Art-Sea Living, including the wine-glass painting. She spends several hours a week painting at the studio and her 9-year-old daughter recently had an “art and fun” birthday party there.
Art-Sea Living “is a cool, calm place to go,” she said.
Even corporate America has discovered art classes. At MiY Ceramics, a local technology company last year held a “bonding session” for its workers.
The businesses work with customers who have dabbled in art all their lives as well as those who have never picked up a paint brush.
Cari Cohen, an abstract artist who owns The Fun Palette, said while she provides instruction, she recognizes that most people are there to have fun.
“I give them a lot of freedom to change whatever they want. if they want to change the colors, that’s fine. Some people are following exactly and some people are doing whatever they want.”
Art-Sea Living, 1628 South Federal Highway, Boynton Beach, 561-737-2600
Miy Ceramics and Glass Studio, 723 South 21 Ave., Hollywood, 954-927-7300
The Fun Palette, 18384 West Dixie Highway, North Miami Beach, 786-272-5412
Joe Picasso’s, 1495 N. Federal Highway, Plaza Del Mar, Fort Lauderdale, 954-462-2551