“This week we sent the kids home with a big bag of art, so our parents are pretty excited. They get it,” says Gabrielle Heide, owner and operator of Studio Claremont.
For more than a decade, Gabrielle has been offering after school and weekend classes to kids in downtown Claremont. Her enthusiasm for moments like this hasn’t slowed down over time in the least. “You'll never get to be that artist again. Picasso said it took him a lifetime to learn how to paint like a child.”
We sat down with Gabrielle to learn more about Claremont, the intricacies of teaching kids, and the artistic spirit:
(Interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity)
Laura Dandoy RE/MAX Resources:
Can you tell me a little bit about the history of Studio Claremont?
Well, I'm a credentialed art teacher who worked in Claremont Schools as an art specialist for one of the local elementary schools. One day, I had a mom ask me if her son could come to my home studio for extra instruction after school.
One student turned into a whole bunch at my home studio. Soon, I was looking for bigger studio space for all these kids, because you can't really run an art school in your garage. I kept looking and found this really cool space at the Packing House, which is over 100 years old. It's on the National Historic registry.
I was able to design how I wanted the studio. At first, I was a little nervous about opening the studio, but the community has been great. I knew they would be, because Claremont is the town of trees and PhDs. So I knew that they would support the arts and they always have.
That's awesome. When you decided to make the transition from public school teacher to sort of private business owner, was that a difficult choice to make?
I think it was just kind of a natural evolution. At that time, I’d started working part time to stay home with my children more. So I started out just trying to earn some extra money and have some fun with the kids, and it just turned out to be very popular.
Can you describe some of the programs that you have for them?
We do drawing, painting, clay, and some paper mache. During the school year, we teach after school classes for the most part. We do have some homeschoolers that come a little bit earlier, but for the most part it's all after school, plus a couple Saturday classes. During the summer time, our regular students take a little bit of a break, and then we offer a camp-like program that’s a little more academic. We cover the elements, principles of design, and art history. We also host two big art shows for kids per year. So it's pretty exciting!
That's awesome! I was poking through your website and some of the reviews on Yelp for you. Everyone seems to say the same thing, which is that I'm amazed that my child was able to pay attention and stay engaged for the length of this art class.
Yeah, each class is an hour and a half long. Even our four year olds have an hour and a half class. So a lot of people say, “Whoa, how does a four year old stay focused for that long?”
Keeping them busy is a big part of it. There's a lot going on. We're usually working on two or three different projects at a time. So we'll paint a background on one, then add texture on another — something like that. So we're usually working on three different things at a time.
Of course, one of our favorite times in the studio is right in the middle… when we get to have a snack and just chillax and talk to each other.
What are some of the surprising things that come with working with four year olds versus working with a 10 year old or a 16 year old?
I used to think that teaching really young kids would be harder than teaching high school and junior high, but the young ones are actually really easy — they're so I'm open to anything. We call them our geniuses, because they just put it together. They don't overthink it. Everything they do is really fresh, then they go “can we have a snack?” And that's it!
As we get older, we start noticing that other people with differing opinions exist. The hard thing to do is to keep that door open and not be hard on ourselves. So we always try our hardest to help the ones that we feel might get what we call “perfectionist paralysis.” So, we do things like remove all the erasers from the pencils to get them started.
What we like to do is just have them be okay with whatever's going to happen in the process of making art, because it's a kind of a metaphor for life.
I like that. As a business owner in Claremont, do you find that the community is supportive?
It really is. We've been fully embraced the entire time we’ve been operating. Not just in Claremont, because a lot of our students come from farther away. I'm surprised that they drive as far as they do.
People who are coming in from elsewhere seem to embrace Claremont itself, not just Studio Claremont. Claremont is very special. It's different than any other town. It's like a mini Pasadena, but even nicer because it’s so much smaller. You can walk around it and get anywhere, from the village to out around the colleges. We've got the real cool trails that you can walk up to in the hills. It’s wonderful.
Can you provide some local recommendations to our readers? A favorite place to eat or hike?
Tough to choose. Well, our favorite restaurant is ¡Viva Madrid! They have tapas and super good sangria for dessert. I go to Bert and Rocky’s for a giant drumstick. We really enjoy walking through the colleges, because they really go all out on the landscaping there. There's a koi pond and lovely things like that. We also have some wonderful hiking on our Wilderness Park.
Want a tour of Claremont? Let the Laura Dandoy RE/MAX Resources team show you around town.