Arts & CultureKiddie Dope

More than Fingerpainting

It’s easy to fit children into a box of what they can and can’t do, especially when comparing them to typical “grown-up” activities.

That was something I was reminded of while sitting at a table, surrounded by canvases, wine glasses and people about my age as we prepared to paint our own replicas of Monet’s garden. Sitting beside me was a 6-year-old who had learned about Monet in school and was eager to get her own version of flowers and happy trees onto her canvas.

Two hours later, as our ARTini’s instructor started to wrap up the painting session, my daughter was exhausted but satisfied. Her trees along the horizon were puffy and dark green; her fields of flowers were pink and purple. 

At first, I was a little apprehensive about signing her up for an evening “drink and draw” session, not sure if the instruction would be overwhelming or she’d be upset if her final piece didn’t look like the original. In the end, it was a lesson not only for her—she learned about the idea of layering colors and shapes—but for me. It would have been easy to paint her into a corner of construction paper and watercolors, not canvases and acrylics, but she handled it in stride.

For the uninitiated, ARTini’s Art Lounge (296 W. Broad St., Suite 3) and Uptown Art (in the Target shopping center, 3061 Atlanta Highway) are two of the places in town where you can have an “adult” evening of painting, sipping wine and listening to music as an instructor guides you through the process. But other than keeping them up past bedtime, the evening activity is great for kids, too, who come home with their own original artwork ready to hang on their walls.

If you’re looking just to dabble in a paint-your-own experience, you can check out Clayfully Created (2440 W. Broad St.). Like Good Dirt (510 N. Thomas St.), it’s is a pottery studio where you can add pigment to clay to create your own piece of 3-D art. But while Good Dirt is great for older kids or families, Clayfully Created has pieces already made; all younger kids have to do is apply the glaze. It’s a little tricky, because what you see isn’t always what you get, in terms of the glaze colors, but that’s part of the fun. Just remember that you don’t walk home with a piece that day. It has to be fired first, so patience is a virtue. The studio also hosts birthday parties in a private room off to the side, where everyone gets to pick a piece to decorate.

You also can host a birthday party at ARTini’s or Uptown Art, but if your child is into painting, I suggest calling ahead to get a sense of what evening classes are happening. Depending on what’s being painted, children might fall head over heels for it. (Bulldogs or birds? Depends on their mood, right?)

Printmaking can also be in the vein of “adult art projects that kids can totally do.” Double Dutch Press (1377 Prince Ave.) is still fairly new to the kids party scene, but that doesn’t mean they won’t accommodate you. Like the canvas-painting outings, Double Dutch is best suited for kids who are older than 5. Toddlers can totally embrace painting pottery; running a printing press, not so much. That’s why Smokey Road Press (in the Leathers Building, 675 Pulaski St.) is a great tool for showing kids how ink and paper become art, but the quick movements of vintage presses aren’t quite as easy for little hands to maneuver. 

Double Dutch’s owners are happy to customize a printing project to suit age level, and from there it’s simply a matter of renting the studio. For a recent birthday party among 5-year-olds, for example, they told me the kids did some potato stamping onto bags and T-shirts before breaking for cake. After a second printing activity, the kids left with their own personalized goody bags.

Whether it’s painting, printing or pot-glazing, call in advance to be sure that the lesson is appropriate and the business owners are aware that you’re bringing a child. 

Another thing to note: Use these as tools to explore creativity, not force it. If children might be into painting, and you make them sit through a two-hour session painting something they may not even like, you’ll probably do more harm than good. Always get their feedback before signing them up. Most of these creative activities are best suited for kids at least in kindergarten, and they’re articulate enough at that age to let you know how they feel. If children’s first exposure to something is positive, they will hold onto that feeling. That’s something to encourage, whether it’s a creative outlet, sports or something you thought only adults could enjoy. Kids can really surprise you.