Arty Party Brings New Life and Fun to Downtown Okemos

You don’t have to be a trained artist to create a work of art. Simple tools, a clean canvas and some encouragement are all you need to repurpose a simple household item — everything from a wooden picture frame to a wine glass — from ordinary to arty. And in the process, you can have fun, too. That’s the focus of a trio of local artists and friends who opened a new shop in an older building in downtown Okemos last month. Painter Vivian Dwyer, art professor Susie Brewster and Leslie Raven, who specializes in portraits, joined forces to create Arty Party Studio, a showroom, classroom and party room. They each have years of experience creating conventional and unconventional art themselves. Dwyer is a painter with a decade’s worth of experience working for clients using many mediums — from traditional canvases to more unusual ones such as walls, floors and even a pool. Brewster was an art professor at Michigan State University for many years who likes to work with murals and collages. Raven creates portraits — of people and pets — and has taught art to children and adults alike. The women believe that people of all ages and backgrounds are creative, and have a desire to express it. Arty Party gives them the venue to let their “inner artist” out. Dwyer sees Arty Party as an “open studio” offering a great opportunity for couples, friends and even individual artists to come and discover their creative side. The three artists encourage people at any skill level to try art. Chances are, say the trio, they will be pleasantly surprised with the results. “People shouldn’t feel intimidated by art. There’s no right or wrong way to do it,” Raven said. She likes to work with watercolor creating “whimsical” scenes and said that it’s fun to teach children and adults alike. Brewster has many years’ experience teaching teens and college students. She recalls a mural painted by kids at Verlinden School that is still there. “Years later when they repainted the building, they painted around the mural and it’s still there,” she said with pride. Dwyer recalled one session where she put a vase with flowers on the table and invited the attendees to paint whatever they wanted — the whole or part of it. Each one created a unique painting. “They were all very pretty and very different,” she said. In addition to creating art, the studio invites groups — from knitting and book clubs to birthday parties — who want an interesting meeting place. The studio’s staff can cater the event or guests can bring their own. “The studio can also order art supplies and suggest project ideas for guests who are not sure what they want to paint,” Dwyer said. A self-described people person, Dwyer looks forward to spending time with her customers. Working in a home studio could be isolating at times, and she was excited to find a shop so close to home and eager to transform it beginning in early January. By March 1, her dream was realized. She had covered two of the drab beige walls with bold black and white horizontal stripes that she painted by hand and replaced the beaten up floor with rugs and linoleum that mimicked the black and white theme of the walls. To bring life to the studio, Dwyer painted accent walls in a bright Kelly green. The inspiration for the walls was a big black and white striped tent that in the middle of the studio. To create a cozy meeting spot, Dwyer placed a wooden table and chairs that she painted with colorful landscapes. Hand painted ornaments cascade overhead. The space outside the tent showcases artwork by the three women and other local artists. Dwyer clearly loves what the three women have created. “It’s a fun place with a positive energy,” she reflected.

Tags: art, Arty Party, Business Profile, DIY, Okemos


Ann Cool

Ann Cool, MPS, is a freelance writer who lives in Mason with her husband Bob.

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