One of the great things about writing about fun stuff to do with kids in Austin is finding out about new places and the interesting people behind them. For some time now, I’ve been reading about the events hosted by The Art Garage, a local business owned by art teacher-turned-stay-at-home-mom Kelly Emmert. Like many of us, Kelly was looking for a way to creatively re-enter the workforce and balance being a mom with her job. At first, Kelly began teaching art classes out of her garage, and then led a summer art camp. What Kelly really wanted was to be able to offer opportunities for people of all ages to have the opportunity to create with a wide range of materials. That dream was realized in 2011 when she opened a storefront in Southwest Austin. Kelly and her team now offer walk-in mosaics, fuse glass, paint-your-own-pottery, clay and spin art. The Art Garage also offers classes, camps and parties. Kelly answered a few questions for us about juggling a business with being a mom, how to nurture an art lover and what we can look forward to next from The Art Garage.
LiveMom: How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
Kelly: My girls are 8 and 13.
LiveMom: How involved are your children in helping develop the Art Garage’s offerings? Do you ask them for advice about what to offer?
Kelly: They are influential, for sure! For camp themes, I definitely pay attention to what is trending with them and their friends. I also check in with my Mama friends who have boys. For paint-your-own-pottery, it is fun to look through the catalogs with them and see what they love. We just added mosaics to the studio and we had a sample making party with the staff. Both my daughters made frames; their projects with their pictures are samples in the display.
LiveMom: Do parents ever work on their own projects alongside their children?
Kelly: Absolutely! Just the other day, I had a mom and son who both created with glass fusion–a night light and a sun-catcher. I love to see the parents creating along side their kids. One of my favorite events is our Daddy/Daughter Date Night. Most of the daddies paint their own pottery piece alongside the daughters. It is the sweetest.
LiveMom: How do you balance the demands of owning your own business with having a family?
Kelly: Isn’t that the trick? I have a fantastic staff and a very supportive husband. As the demands have grown, they have all stepped up. My husband is a firefighter, so his schedule works out well for sharing home responsibilities, child pick ups etc. which is really nice and I have been able to expand my team’s hours.
LiveMom: What advice would you give to parents who would like to encourage an artistic spark (or perhaps just a love of art) in their children?
Kelly: Let them create. Let them explore–different art materials, different classes or no classes. We really believe around here, that to bring out creativity you need to instill confidence. We do that by providing a solid background of art history, instruction and a wide variety of mediums to play with. Our only expectation is that they have fun expressing themselves which allows them to take chances with new ideas and grow as artists.
LiveMom: What is your idea of a perfect Austin day, spent with your family? Where would you go? What would you do?
Kelly: We love being outside and exploring the parks around Austin so that is always fun.
LiveMom: Do you feel Austin is an especially good place to launch a business like The Art Garage?
Kelly: Yes! I love how much everyone is involved here! One of the main reasons I wanted to have a business is to be involved in the surrounding schools and neighborhoods and we just have such a great sense of community here in Austin.
LiveMom: What do you like most about Austin?
Kelly: I really love the amount of parks and green spaces. Exploring McKinney Falls, hiking Barton Creek Greenbelt, playing at Circe C Park, running at Lady Bird, heading to Zilker Park for a festival –all that is within 10-15 minutes of our home.
LiveMom: What’s on the horizon for Art Garage?
Kelly: We just expanded to add a new classroom. For summer, that means more age specific art camps–three camps each week. And for the evenings, we plan to add some fun “paint and wine” nights and maybe even wheel throwing.
LiveMom: Is there anything else we should know about the business?
Kelly: We are committed to offering new and exciting art experiences all the time. You can paint pottery with your family, come for a adult workshop in glass fusion, send your kids to camp, bring your toddler to Storytime Art, have a night out while your kids enjoy our “kid’s night out”–and so much more. We really hope to meet you soon.
What are your kid’s favorite art projects? When your kids are making art, do you make it alongside of them?
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.livemom.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Nicole-Basham-Sara-Marzani-Photography-livemom.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]A native Austinite and soccer-playing mom, Nicole uses her 7-year-old son as an excuse to rediscover her hometown through his eyes. In Thoreau’s words, her mission is to “suck out all the marrow of life”, or in her son’s words, to cultivate in him a love of “advenchers”.[/author_info] [/author]