Art Escape alumni and faculty bring out the creative side of young artists


Nestled along Highway 12 is an oasis for budding artists called Artistic getaway, a non-profit organization whose mission is “art is for everyone”. And the mission of this Sonoma nonprofit is perfectly personified inside and outside the modest yellow bungalow.

Case in point, located outside the building: Residents who frequent Art Escape know all about Frida’s Art for All Box. This special box is where beginners or seasoned artists can find the art supplies needed to create their next masterpiece. Box items are free to the public and donations are always welcome.

It’s this reciprocity of give-and-take that keeps creatives of all ages and walks of life coming back for more. Each year, more than 3,000 people participate in inclusive and engaging programs that allow them to cultivate their creativity, discover new mediums and find support at Art Escape.

One step inside the bungalow and guests are transported to a multimedia art exhibit of student work displayed on the silver and off-white walls. The regularly changing gallery is proof that creativity, inspiration and art come in many forms.

Keep going to find tons of supplies, a large antique book press, and an outdoor oven set up in the back patio for glassblowing classes.

Artists answer the call of the community

Art Escape was founded in 2012 by a group of artists who wanted to create something special for the Sonoma Valley community. Janis Kobe, Gayle Manfre, Kate Ortolano, Thena Trygstad and the late Penny MacNaughton understood that many residents of surrounding neighborhoods faced obstacles when considering attending a prestigious art school. Some of these included cost, language barriers, and a dearth of culturally relevant offerings.

The team’s goal is to reduce these barriers as much as possible while creating tailored programs that everyone has access to.

The programs offered by Art Escape are free or low-cost, which is made possible by funding from the Sonoma Outdoor Foundationindividuals and businesses.

“Art Escape is one of our premier community partners that provides culturally relevant, affordable, and easily accessible arts programs that enhance both the educational and creative development of our children here in the Sonoma Valley,” said Cheryl Shimek, co-chair of the board of directors of the Sonoma Plein Air Foundation. . “We at the Sonoma Plein Air Foundation are proud to work with and support Art Escape’s efforts.”

Like many nonprofits in the community, Art Escape has taken action during the ongoing pandemic. They wanted to continue giving back to the community that has supported them all these years by giving out 3,000 art kits and craft books to students to keep their creative minds going.

At the service of young creative minds

Since Art Escape opened, over 18,000 students have learned from qualified instructors and artists. Some have become teachers themselves and are giving back to a new generation of creatives.

Some members of this new generation already frequent the Teen Art Fair.

The free program offers both an artistic and social experience for students aged 12 to 18. The group of teens tackle new projects including wood burning, large scale painting and more. They are also encouraged to work on their own projects.

Twice a month, on Fridays, the group starts a session by creating their name tags, which they can also label with their pronouns. It is a seemingly small act that creates a sense of mutual respect and expresses the uniqueness of each person that is celebrated within the group, with art.

“Art is a vehicle for relationships and helps to forget the events of the school day when necessary,” said Ortolano, co-founder of Art Escape. “Here, kindness comes first.”

Little artists are inspired

There’s also something special for little performers running around Sonoma, especially on Wednesdays.

The classroom where Flowery School Wednesdays take place is still powered by 10 actively engaged students in grades three through five who were released earlier from nearby Flowery Primary School. The Art Escape team brings together all 10 students per month and gives free rein to creativity.

Susan Heeringa-Pieper, an artist teacher who leads the class, likes to start with fun warm-up activities, like having the kids hold a 6-B graphite pencil in their non-dominant hand and drawing the five universal forms of art. , including circles, squares and triangles.

“For me, Art Escape gives me the freedom to be able to work with such young and enthusiastic minds, and the opportunity to create an open and creative program,” she said. “As a teacher here, I can bite off more than I can chew, using different mediums, and the students are always up for the occasion and trying new things.”

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