Jill Valavanis | Special to The Sun — After safely parking the brightly-colored box truck at El Verano Elementary School, art educator Melissa Plume is greeted with great excitement by a group of third through fifth grade students. “Please, can I help you unload the art supplies?” chirps a girl. “Me too! Me too!” begs a boy. The students have been looking forward to their visit from the Art Escape mobile studio for days.
Once the materials have been organized on the playground tables, Plume leads the students through a lesson on transforming strips of paper into an octopus, essentially changing a two-dimensional material into a three-dimensional sculpture. The students work intently and cheerfully on their sculptures, while chatting about the collaborative piece they will create for the upcoming student art show at Art Escape.
Photo: Art Escape’s mobile art studio, designed by graphic designer Ken Winston, at left, and coordinated by Melissa Plume, at the wheel, ‘brings art to the kids’ in Sonoma Valley.
Art Escape, in an effort to live by its motto, “Art for all!,” has created something unique not only to Sonoma Valley, but to Sonoma County and beyond: a mobile art studio. Created in a cargo truck, the vehicle is used as an on-location art education studio, to bring art activities to all areas of the Valley.
“This is such a wonderful way to engage more children and adults throughout the valley,” said Kate Ortolano, president of Art Escape’s board of directors. “We are on a quest to bring art experiences to as many people as possible. With our mobile studio we have the opportunity to go anywhere.”Art Escape, founded in 2012, was the brainchild of four local artists who wanted a way to provide more art opportunities for children. The concept for the mobile art studio came about after some children said they wanted to attend workshops at Art Escape but had a hard time getting to the studio. Thena Trygstad, co-founder, explained, “We first considered picking up children and bringing them to Art Escape, but that wasn’t feasible, so we thought, ‘Why not bring the art to the kids?’”
With a donated truck and funds from Walsh Vineyards Management, and exciting exterior graphics created and donated by local artist Ken Winston, Art Escape has rolled out its unique concept, winning praise from both kids and adults. A grant from Impact100 Sonoma has enabled the studio to bring art lessons to K-5 students at four public schools.
Fully stocked with a variety of art supplies, the Art Escape mobile art studio is starting to be seen all over town as it is used for community gatherings, festivals, birthday parties, and corporate and school events. It will continue to be used for outreach purposes, bringing the benefits of art-making to the public, especially children. Flowery student, Celine, eloquently describes these benefits. “The best thing about art is anyone can do it. If there was no art this world would be very boring.”
What’s next for the mobile art studio? “I would absolutely love to offer free art in the parks during the summertime,” says Ortolano, “Wouldn’t that be great?” For information about Art Escape’s mobile art studio, contact Melissa Plume at [email protected] or 707.938.5551.