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Art and Soul giving kids a space to explore their creative side (6 photos)

This week's What's Up Wednesday takes a look at Alicia Pirie's new endeavour

There are lots of opportunities for children and teens to get involved in sports. Now, youth in Timmins have an exciting opportunity to explore their creative side and meet others with similar interests.

Art and Soul has been open in the Porcupine Mall since September. The brainchild of Alicia Pirie, Art and Soul is a place to explore art, music and develop creative thinking.

“There are a huge amount of kids out there who aren’t sporty, who don’t want to do sports or dance,” Pirie said “It’s really nice to give those kids an opportunity to be creative and artistic, creative and meet up with others.”

For four years, she was the owner of Chic Baby Boulevard and Chic Baby and Kids, a retail business. When she had a location in downtown Timmins, Pirie added classes and birthday parties.

“The classes started to take off ... but I had no space,” she said. “I started doing birthday parties around February of last year. Everybody wanted parties for bigger groups, but I could only accommodate eight.

“With the decline in brick and mortar, competing in retail with Amazon and Walmart, I decided to get out of retail altogether. I closed Chic Baby then over the summer processed, ‘can I do this, can I create a studio that is just focused on classes?’ I took the plunge and came here. I realized it would work, having the two studios, I could incorporate two sets of classes and I could have two programs going on at once if I wanted to, and opened in September.

“I still have some retail, but I wanted to have the unique stuff you couldn’t get anywhere else. Art kits and art projects, painting supplies ... with Micheal’s gone now, that’s a big thing.”

Art and Soul offers age-specific classes throughout the week, specialty workshops, open studio time and organizes creative themed birthday parties. There will even be special art camps this summer.

“We do regular classes during the week, during the day for babies, toddlers and preschoolers who are off, and open studios for kids who are age two up to teens,” Pirie said. “At open studio they can just drop in, we always have some kind of art project or theme that they can do that week, but if that is not what they want to do, they are more than welcome to just create.

“We’ve got shelves upon shelves of paint, paper, watercolour and all kinds of medium they can use. If they want to do weaving, they can do weaving because we’ve got yarn. If they want to draw a portrait, they can draw a portrait. It’s open. We try to encourage parents to stay, so they create or craft along with their child. It’s a really good place to get parents to connect again.”

So far Art and Soul has attracted a dedicated clientele in the East End. The hope is that word will spread and more will make the short drive from other parts of the city.

How dedicated are Art and Soul regular artists?

“Kids at Bertha Shaw will chat, ‘Are you going to Art and Soul tonight? I going to Art and Soul for the open studio,’” Pirie said.

“One of the girls had her birthday here. She showed up with a gift for me, she had made a portrait that says Art and Soul because she loves it here so much. It’s really nice to have to have something that the kids love coming to.”

She and her staff are also looking forward to summer art camps.

“We didn’t want to do full days, it’s not a day camp or daycare,” Pirie said. “In our eyes, we think this is a really special week for the kids. They’ll love it. We’re doing everything from paper mache to weaving, to watercolour, to portraits, to painting, to making slime. All those things that kids love to do and we’ve themed them”

Sessions end with a gallery, where the work of children and teens is on display for friends and family.

“I always equate it to a hockey tournament. It is just as important to our kids as a dance recital or a championship game,” she said. “Everything that they create is showcased on our walls with their names underneath ... and they are so proud to show their parents.

“We had one little boy who was so proud he brought his entire family, aunts, uncles, grandparents and they did a big family picture in front of his artwork. It brought tears to my eyes.”

Birthday parties are themed by the kids, so, as Pirie said, they are not “a cookie cutter experience.”

Pirie also teaches pound for adults, a fitness workout inspired by drumming. Participants use weighted drumsticks for the 45-minute class and burn about 800 calories.

“I got certified for generation pound, for kids, starting here in September,” she said.” I teach it in schools as well. I was at O’Gorman Intermediate for six weeks.”

Pirie thoroughly enjoys working with children and encouraging them to explore creativity.

“My passion has always been teaching with kids. And music and art have always been something I love. Teaching art to kids under 12 is probably my biggest passion,” she said. “My daughter, who is seven, has been my biggest motivator and inspiration because she loves art.”

For more information about Art and Soul, visit the website or the Art and Soul Facebook page.