I have always loved the arts. I loved color, drawing, sketching, painting....even learning all about artists at a pretty young age. (I still walk through museums and remember names and even some stories surrounding these artists). Art just brings me to a happy place. A place where color and imagination collide.
At one point in my life, my father had taken a job in California and the plan was for my mom and I to join him after the school year finished. This was in the middle of high school and we lived in New York at the time....not every 16 year old's idea of a fun move. I had an art teacher at the time who actually offered to put me up for the next 2 years at her home so I could finish high school in NY...with the caveat that I would pursue art after high school. While I wanted so badly to stay, I couldn't imagine living across the country from my parents for 2 years (funny since 2 years later I couldn't wait to move far away for college!)
So life went on...I finished high school in Cali, moved to the Midwest to go to school in Madison, Wisconsin, then moved to Australia for a year. After returning stateside, I moved to Chicago to "start my real life". (Isn't that what you're supposed to do after college?)
Somehow with my Sociology and Behavioral Science and Law degree, I ended up in sales. Living the dream in the corporate world...with my very own cubicle and stapler. My art fell by the wayside as life got in the way....but as anyone knows, when you suppress the things that make you happy, you start to feel slightly unbalanced. And art still permeated into things I did....my pie charts and graphs were the most colorful you've ever seen 😉
So years and jobs went by. I went through periods of time where dreams of being an art teacher pervaded my nights. But I was making decent money and so that thought quickly fell by the wayside, even though I knew that would make me so happy.
In 2010 I found myself working at a job I loved, but for a boss I couldn't stand (you've all been there no?). I kept thinking, "I really need a Plan B." But had no idea what that Plan B was. I found myself in Denver just before Thanksgiving visiting a great high school friend whom had just given birth to her first daughter. While window shopping in Cherry Creek, I saw a place that looked intriguing called 'Canvas & Cocktails'. My friend asked if we had one in Chicago and unsure I walked in to see what it was. I'm pretty sure my jaw dropped when I walked in and saw people learning to paint, drinking wine and genuinely having a great time. And I think I started rambling "No, we don't, but we need one and I think I should open one". And I will never forget my friend's response:
"Oh Jess, you would get to paint again!"
So many thoughts rushed to my mind...I would get to paint again...wouldn't that make me so happy? And in the state I was in at the time, I actually feared up thinking about it.
So home to Chicago I flew and started the new journey to open up my own business. I somehow sold a co-worker of mine on the business idea and that I could teach all the classes....I still have no idea how he trusted me on that having no clue if I could paint or not...or teach painting for that matter. But a few months later, we opened our brick and mortar studio in Bucktown, Arts n Spirits.
The first year was so exhausting, but also so rewarding beyond words. I still worked my corporate job from 8-5, but went straight to Arts n Spirits after work on Thursdays and Fridays to teach our 7pm class (and sometimes a 10:30pm private party on Friday nights), and would teach 2-4 classes on Saturdays and 1 or 2 classes on Sundays. I would also go most Tuesdays and Wednesdays after work to create new paintings to instruct.
While I felt I was working all the time and was certainly sleep deprived, I found myself being so much happier. My friend was right...I was able to paint again. And even better than that was the impact I had on others who may not have painted since they too were much younger. The appreciation and thank you's I got during and after our classes were so rewarding. The pride I saw as the people I was teaching saw what they were creating with their own hands made me just so grateful. I mean, how many work places can boast having a room full of happy people? (This is not to say they all walked in happy...but they sure did all leave happy!)
Two years into the creation of Arts n Spirits, I finally was able to leave my corporate 8-5 job. And it's amazing to think that we are coming up on our 6 year anniversary of opening. I still get warm fuzzies when I walk into our studio because I can feel the warmth of the space and how many people have hopefully been inspired to embrace more of their creative side.
Painting to Gogh is just an extension of what we do at Arts n Spirits. I'm so grateful to be a part of something that can now bring the joy of painting into someone's home, while also giving back to the art community.
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