Hello Art Therapy!

For a long time now I have been going back and forth about the concept of Art Therapy. When I first came across this form of both mental and physical treatment I thought to myself, “Drawing, coloring, painting? Something that brings excitement to children can actually be a form of medical treatment? But how?” With a coffee in my right hand, I searched the web for hours trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together to find out how effective this treatment actually is.

As I hoped it would, it turned out that art therapy is not only one of the leading treatments for children facing a diverse range of challenges, but it also helps adults suffering from stress, depression and other problems. Since Mother’s Day was around the corner and my mother is by far the MOST difficult person to buy for, I didn’t hesitate when choosing an adult coloring book.

This was perfect because about two years ago my grandmother took a fall down an escalator, leading her to end up in a wheelchair. After the accident it turned out that she needed 24-hour care, which included somebody to bath her, make her meals and so on. For the last year, that person has been my mother.

With that said, a mountain of stress had been placed upon my mother’s shoulders that was growing with each day. So, my solution was to buy her a Mother’s Day gift that would allow her to de-stress, which ended up being this adult coloring book. (I provided the picture below of the one I bought with the colored pencils too).

With a stubborn grandmother and hot-headed mother spending countless hours together, you could bet that there needed to be something to calm the water. Nevertheless, I ended up buying another book for my grandmother and truthfully, it was the best 18 dollars I have ever spent. I am not going to lie, my mother’s first response was, “Adrianna, I don’t have time for this! I have to cook the pasta, the meatballs, clean the bathroom, the shower… blah blah blah” But after just a week with the coloring books, my mother said that she hadn’t felt so peaceful in a long time.

My point is that art therapy is unlike any other form of therapy or medication. It is pure. It is healthy. And ultimately, it has the power to help children (and adults) express things that they do not have the words alone to do.

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Hello Artists Everywhere!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about careers in art, mainly because the curriculum of our AFI IV class centers around learning the practical applications of art. I hear a lot from people that their conception of art is more of the finer arts. When they think about it (imagine clouds of thought bubbles emerging from people’s faces please), they see galleries, museums, paintings, drawings, sculptures, and maybe even the stereotypical artist with the beret painting landscapes on the rue de la blah blah blah. Very few people truly see all the areas that art seeps into. Sometimes, I think those thoughts are imparted onto kids as well, and they don’t always see that the possibilities truly are endless. They have to learn to see non-traditional artists (chefs, plastic surgeons, architects, civil engineers, tattoo artists, interior designers, special effects artists, photographers, party planners, marketing consultants… dude, the list continues, and we’d all be reading for the next few years if I listed them all) as real artists too.

So far, my AFI kids have already delved into the world of architecture. They built these fabulous treehouse models based off of some sketches and floor plans. They even worked with special effects makeup for Halloween to apply realistic gashes and wounds (we already blogged about it and the creations came out amazing). One of our more recent projects is one in which the students were asked to create a logo for a fictitious business that they have, and then use the pen tool in adobe illustrator to draw their logos.

We’re about 4 classes into this project, maybe even more, because sometimes the days all swirl together, but they’ve already come out with some astounding material. I’m really impressed with all of their work, and even more taken aback by how quickly they grasped the concepts. I didn’t even know what illustrator was until I was maybe 21, and it took me a while to get a firm grasp on its functionality. The students are creating images, switching colors, making gradients, and moving anchor points with ease, and only after 4 (or so) classes! Seriously, WHAT?!

I’ve included some images below, and there will be some more to follow (some of the artwork is on my laptop at home), so you can all stand beside me and see for yourself. I hope you enjoy, and I encourage you all to think about the wealth of art that is around you every day. Mayhaps (thanks b for granting me permission to use this word) you’ll list some more types of artists below!

5 ways to keep school age boys (and all active kids) engaged in art class

new jersey art classes for children morris countyAt a certain point, the ratio of girls to boys in art classes increases and there are predominantly girls. This usually happens in the later elementary school/middle school years. There is a misconception that boys are too active to be interested in art class, that they are not able to sit still for lots of listening. Nothing could be further from the truth! Our upper level art classes of middle school age students have a good mix of both genders, and our top level advanced class is 50% male.

Art classes can engage almost any active child, boy or girl. Here are 5 things we use to keep school aged kids motivated during class time.art class for kids

  1. bite sized pieces. Nuggets of information or directions, followed by creation time, work best for projects. If we have a long or multi-step piece, we break it down into smaller chunks, and let the kids get working sooner. It’s much easier for them to play attention to 5 minutes of lecturing and then start creating (and repeat this process) than to listen to an hour of instruction and then get started.art class elementary school age keeping kids engaged in class
  1. change the scene.   Every now and then we change the location of our classes, providing a new environment for the kids. This could be a field trip to a museum, or just working in a different room in our studio.nj kids art class and party
  1. change the physical work position. If kids seem antsy, changing position can work wonders. We bring out easels or raise the table so they can stand and work, or have them sit on the floor. We tape paper to the wall, or let them try a different chair.
  1. send them on errands. Kids just have to move sometimes, and we incorporate movement into our lesson plans. The supplies they need are kept on a table, apart from where they create, so they have to get up to get needed items. We’ll have them get up to check out a drawing from another angle. These can be done numerous times if you have a high-energy class.elementary school art education
  1. allow them to be free range. Don’t force kids to sit in one place all class. Encourage them to get up and try another seat. Walk around and see what other kids are doing in their project. Get a drink of water. As long as they are not disturbing other students, it’s fine to hop up and take a little break.

As you can see, the key to keeping energetic kids engrossed in the classroom activities is variety! By being mindful of the children’s liveliness, instructors can manage it and keep them on task.

hello yarnbombing!

We are excited about our latest upcoming public art project: yarnbombing the pole in front of our studios.the messy artist yarnbombing art class nj

What is yarnbombing? It’s a type of street art, using yarn to decorate fences, benches, poles – you name it! Knitters have been covering all sorts of objects with their artistry.imgres-1 images

Donna came up with the idea to decorate the pole in colorful crocheted circles, based on our logo’s colors: orange and blue, as well as purple.07-18-2012 final logo

However, this is a big project, and to do it, she drew inspiration from a local Friday night knitting/crocheting/spinning circle she has been involved with. Now she and Marie, the owner of the yarn store KnitKnack, have joined together to set up sessions for the yarnbombing: one for crochet instruction, two to crochet the circles, and one to bomb.  knitknack and the messy artist yarnbomb

We have room for a few more in these sessions, so if you want to join in these creative and collaborative art events, let us know! You can even teach yourself to crochet pretty easily if you don’t know how already – there are some great videos on youtube such as this or this to get you set up.

Here’s the schedule – RSVPs are necessary so we know how much yarn, pizza, wine etc to have on hand.  Please contact donna@themessyartist.com to reserve a space. These are all adult only events.

  • Instruction session: The Messy Artist. 356 Route 10 West, East Hanover. Tuesday February 3, 7 – 9pm.  (Sorry, this session is full.)
  • Crochet session: KnitKnack.  1914 Springfield Avenue, Maplewood. Sunday February 8, 2-4 pm.  Pizza will be served.
  • Crochet session: The Messy Artist. Sunday February 22. 6:30 – 8:30pm.  Pizza and wine will be served.
  • The final session – the bombing! The Messy Artist. March 8, 6:30 8:30 pm.  Pizza and wine will be served.

We’ll post more photos as the project evolves.

hello parties!

the messy artist great partyAs well as being an art studio for kids, The Messy Artist is also a small business that has been growing for the past 16 years. Over this time we have learned a lot from creating a business and running it from the ground up. Responding to our customers’ requests is one thing we have found very important as we’ve grown – it’s essential to stay flexible and adapt.

The Messy Artist originally began as a place to provide art classes for young children, with just one class a week, running out of a classroom in a local church. Now 16 years later, our current location has two separate studios, and we run 29 classes a week! But along with the expansion of classes, we also had parents requesting something else – birthday parties on weekends for their children. We spoke with CEO Donna Bernstein about the addition and evolution of birthday parties at The Messy Artist. the messy artist party room art party

How did you start having birthday parties at The Messy Artist?  

The first party came about from a customer in class asking if I would do a party. I’m guessing it was about 20 children. For pricing, I just calculated supplies, rental fee (since I was in the church and paid by the hour), and I found someone to assist me, so then the salary was added in. I looked at what other places charged and made sure it was comparable.

I like to thoroughly think through all the aspects of something before starting it, and did that with the party format. I have to say that our structure has always worked really well. We haven’t changed it in 16 years! We do 3-4 art projects /activities first with the children, then transition into the food time.

north new jersey art party How many parties do you have on the weekends?

We can have up to 8 parties a weekend, including our times on Friday. Sometimes we add extra weekday slots when a session has ended, or around the holidays when we don’t hold regular classes. Our parties are an hour and a half, with 55 minutes of art and 35 minutes of food time.nj art party Why do you think your parties are so popular?

I’ve thought about this a lot and I think there are three reasons. One is that we offer lots of age-appropriate, customizable fun for every age party. The parents get to choose exactly the activities that their child and guests will enjoy. Second, I am very lucky to have a great staff, who provide excellent service and have experience in art and young children. Finally, we have listened to parents over the years, and now offer lots of options for their involvement with the food part of the party. For example, parents can do all the work themselves, from bringing in the paper goods, decorating, arranging for and serving the food and cleaning up afterward. Or they can have us do it all: we provide and set up all paper goods and decorations, arrange for and serve the food, and clean up after the party. The family gets to arrive right at the party start time with all the guests – no work required.

Savannah and Cake at Messy Artist copyWhat is your favorite aspect of parties at The Messy Artist?  

Ensuring that all children are engaged and busy the entire time is my favorite part. At parties you get much more of a range of children with different interests and ages. It’s important to keep all children busy and happy. Our play based station program is perfect for that.

Also, getting great feedback from our customers always makes my day and lets me know that our parties are being well received. Here are a few – the first one is from just this weekend.

I couldn’t settle in tonight without sending you and your staff a heartfelt thank you for helping to make my daughter’s fourth birthday just amazing. She was so happy and so were we. Anthony, Jessica and Julianna did an incredible job. From setup, to greeting us, to making sure each guest had fun. The event went seamlessly and did not feel hurried or rushed. Olivia and her friends left beaming and many of my mommy friends were ready to sign up for their own events. It was truly well done. It’s wonderful how many smiles you helped put on the faces of children, especially mine.

 “We absolutely loved The Messy Artist! It was something that was so different and unlike any party we have ever attended. All our guests had a great time and we even had a guest of ours book a party for their daughter’s birthday as well! Overall, this is a great place to have your child’s birthday party!!”

“Great staff, great facilities!!! Never seen a party before where all kids were involved and had smiles on their faces throughout the whole time! 🙂 Thank you “messy artist”!!”

new jersey art party“Just wanted to say thanks for a great party yesterday! The staff was fantastic… they really engaged the kids and made sure they were all having fun. I especially appreciated that they called them all by their names and encouraged them to get involved with the art. Amelia and her friends had a great time.   Becky Lorig, NJ

Thank you so much for the fantastic and unique birthday party. The staff went above and beyond to make sure that each child was engaged and having fun. They really made sure everything went smoothly so that we could enjoy the party. I was so impressed with their enthusiasm and attentiveness to all of our guests. Thank you!  Amy Jernigan, Morristown, NJ

messy artist art pary morris countyHow have you seen parties change over the past 16 years? 

The structure is always the same but we do change the projects. About every year or so we add some new projects in to the mix so that the kids are always able to experience something new.  A big change from our first South Orange space was that we just had one classroom, so we had to do a very quick clean up and turn around from art to food. Now, since we have two studios, we move from art in one room to food in another. We also offer many more options such as food, beverages, balloons and service.

art party fun cakeThis isn’t really a “change” per se, but recently my staff has started a friendly competition when setting up for parties. One of our more popular activities is tabletop painting, where we cover a table in white paper, and then put out trays of paint, accompanied by a fun variety of objects to paint with. We have cars, potato mashers, Legos – all kinds of stuff that encourages kids to explore painting, and they love it. So the staff has gotten very creative in setting up the tables before parties, with all kinds of designs.
Here are a few:

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Do you see any changes coming for parties in the future? 

We will keep things the same since our parties are doing so well, though we are going to start adding in a party favor option. This is where we can provide special takeaways for the birthday party hosts and child to give to their guests.

See more about our parties on The Messy Artist website.