March 20 2013 12:00 AM

Arty Party Studio

Courtesy photo

Last weekend, the festively named Arty Party Studio celebrated its grand opening in Okemos, and co-owner/operator Susan Brewster said the response was overwhelming — about 200 folks turned out, mostly friends and members of the community.

“I was blown away by the support we’ve gotten so far,” said Brewster. “I think the area was waiting for a place this to come along.”

As for what kind of place it is exactly, that’s a little hard to peg down. For starters, it’s a retail art shop. You can buy hand-painted items made by Brewster and her professional artist co-owners, Vivian Dwyer and Leslie Raven. There’s also featured work by other local artists available.

“All the art we sell was handpicked by us to represent the tastes of the community,” Brewster said. “And there are a wide variety of tastes.”

Secondly, it’s a classroom. Brewster was an art teacher for 20 years in the Lansing and Okemos Public School systems as well as in the Department of Art, Art History and Design at Michigan State University. She and her partners lead instructional painting seminars for both small and large groups, with specialty classes focusing on acrylics, watercolors and different styles. Age groups range from elementary school level all the way up to grown ups.

“Starting soon, we’re going to start having date nights on Fridays, where you can come with your significant other and take an art lesson,” Brewster said. “It’s a great way to spend time together. You’re allowed to bring your own beer or wine, and we’re right next to a Domino’s, so it’s very convenient if you want to eat pizza while you make art.”

But she said Arty Party is different from the recent wave of art-themed drink-and-paint studios that are cropping up around the country, such as Painting with a Twist that opened in Frandor last fall. Brewster says that her studio encourages individuals to use their own imaginations, instead of learning how to paint a particular piece of art.

“I’ve always stressed letting students be themselves,” she said. “I prefer to give the guidelines and techniques, but art isn’t really yours unless you’re expressing your own likes and ideas. Vivian, Leslie and I get people started and help them be successful.”

Finally, living up its name, Arty Party is an event space, which can be rented out for jewelry making or wine glass decorating parties, designed for bridal showers or one-of-a-kind birthday parties.

“It’s just a real happy atmosphere,” Brewster said. “I’m sure we’ll find more uses for the space as time goes on.”

The first week of April, Brewster and her team will host a spring break art day camp for elementary school-age children. She said the cost is $40 (“Cheaper than a babysitter!”) and runs from Monday to Wednesday that week from 10 a.m. to noon. This will take the place of Arty Party’s usual Monday-Wednesday-Friday after-school art classes that week, which runs $15 for two-hour lesson. (Hey adults: you can join in the fun on Sundays with a $25 two-hour lesson that includes the cost of materials.)

Looking ahead, Brewster said Arty Party wants to put together a drawing class for high school students to help them get their art school portfolios together.

“The ultimate goal is to have lessons available for every age,” she said. “Who doesn’t love to make art?”

The Arty Party Studio
4661 Okemos Road
11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
Also open by appointment or by class
(517) 381-3426