Wet Paint Art Studio offers up imaginative opportunities for the young and the young at heart. Art has always held a special place in native Las Crucen Ashley Parkey’s heart, so much so that she earned her master’s in art education from Texas Woman’s University and taught elementary art in Dallas for four years. When she moved back to Las Cruces in 2009, she started teaching private classes and working with young kids at Aprendamos Intervention Team. Last October, with her three kids now all in school, she decided to take her joy for fostering a love of art in children and families to the next level and opened Wet Paint Art Studio, just one block off Downtown Main Street.
“The concept started with me trying to find a space to offer classes. I used to lease a space from the church, but it was difficult packing up and hauling my stuff around every time,” she remembers. “I did lots of research on the Internet and Pinterest and I found this studio that fit my vision. Since then, it’s sort of developed into a situation where other artists can have a space to offer their own classes and public events.”
The bright and airy studio is both colorful and cozy. Whimsical artworks line the walls and hang from the ceilings. A chalkboard wall is decorated with an ever-changing array of doodles and drawings. Vibrant, paint-dipped brushes shimmer in front of the window, and metal shelves are lined with materials for creating paintings, drawings, sculptures, and all forms of mixed media conceptions. Ashley describes it as “an art studio, craft space, and all around creativity hub — think of it as a creative co-op of sorts.”
Many of the classes and events cater to young artists, but there are creative opportunities for all ages at Wet Paint. El Paso-based company I Painted That! regularly hosts sip and paint classes for adults (visit ipaintedthat.com to reserve your spot) and Ashley is working to add more teen and adult classes to their monthly lineup. She’s also hoping to start promoting creativity sessions for local businesses.
“I’ve done a couple events for my book club here,” Ashley says. “I’m also an associate broker for Berkshire Hathaway Real Estate and we recently did a team building event here. As adults, we often lose track of our creative inclinations. Children are engaged a lot more in play and imagination, but I think it’s equally important as we get older. At the team building session, everyone was so peaceful and excited, and so many commented that they hadn’t done something like that in a really long time. Whether it’s through painting or sculpture or jewelry making, art works your brain and it works your heart and all of that is great for us as human beings.”
And according to the Wet Paint theory, it’s never too early to start reaping the benefits of art. One of the studio’s most popular initiatives is Saturday–Splatterday! NMSU art professor Tauna M. Cole-Dorn hosts this drop-off, pop-in art class for ages four to 13. For $7.50, parents can drop off their little ones and enjoy some alone time strolling the farmers’ market or perhaps taking a class at Dwell Yoga (Wet Paint parents can take the 10 – 11:15 class for just $5).
“At first, we played around with having a theme each week, but now I really want it to be more of an open studio where kids can get creative however they’d like to,” Tauna notes. “They’ve got plenty of different materials to work with and if they need ideas, I can give them my ideas and help them with techniques.”
Tauna’s been teaching art for almost 30 years, including offering kids’ classes and camps at museums and various spaces around town. This past summer, she taught several camps at Wet Paint, all offering up much more than just an opportunity to get crafty. For preschoolers she hosted an “Art Through the Senses” class, as well as “Fly to the Moon,” exploring galaxies, planets, stars, and space travel. For the older kids she offered “Literature Through the Imagination,” and a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) course titled, “Left Brain, Art Brain.”
“For ages nine to 13, we offered a social media and selfie themed camp,” Tauna adds. “We wanted to have an open discussion with kids about how they see themselves as a participant in social media. What kind of pressures do they feel? Are they able to keep a balanced perspective of who they are versus what they think they should post?”
Another Wet Paint instructor, Nancy Clemons, is a former classroom teacher. She teaches the parent-child class, Toddler Art & Play, for ages 20 months to three years. She also offers a drop off KinderArt for ages four to six. “I love when parents tell me that their kids can’t wait for class to resume in the fall,” Nancy says. “It’s so sweet how little two-year-olds feel proud of their artwork that their parents have on display in their home.”
This fall, Wet Paint has launched some exciting new initiatives including partnerships with Explora museum in Albuquerque for homeschoolers (explora.us to register) and with Dwell Yoga for kid art and yoga workshops. The studio space can also be rented out for everything from birthday parties to bachelorette parties. Ashley says, “We’re part of the downtown community and as this area gets livelier and our studio continues to grow, we’re really hoping to create those connections and support other small, local businesses in Las Cruces.”
Written by Jessica Salopek • Photography by Ashley Parkey