by Karen Hery
In the beginning there was a toy store . . . and it was good.
Mother and daughter, Heather Jackson and Alexis Jenssen, opened Aster & Bee in 2010 at 4819 SE Division St.
As 4th and 5th generation Oregonians, it seemed like a great way to work closely together and give back to community. Things were going along so swimmingly – voted best toy and book store in Portland with kudos from Red Tricycle to Zagat- that opening another location seemed like the next logical step. Instead, they took an even bigger step back and started over . . .
As The Art School Studio, set up for the artist in all of us.
Now, where hand-made teething toys, chemistry sets and Big Foot tea towels once sat out on display there are a dozen artists’ easels waiting for kids and adults, birthday parties and corporate outings, fund raisers and fun ladies’ nights out. For the first time since they re-opened as an art studio . . . weekday summer camps start in mid June for kids 8-14 with different themes each week through late August.
“Our old business just wasn’t supporting our life bliss,” says Jenssen who found the local artists she worked with to stock the toy store delightful but the constant weekend and evening retail hours in conflict with a good family life and getting her eleven year old daughter to soccer games and practices.
With time now between the lighter schedule of art classes and art studio time, Jackson and Jenssen are able to go out to local public schools and gift their time to boost up our dwindling community investment in the arts.
“Not every teacher is a comfortable artist,” says Jackson, “We help them get more comfortable and work with the supplies they already have.”
Non profits as diverse as a local Buddhist Center and a Trinidad mission trip have run fund raisers through the Art School Studio this past year with donors signing up for art studio time together and all proceeds above the studio time costs, often over 50% of funds collected, going to the sponsoring charity.
Co-workers from businesses as large as NIKE, Mozilla and Doc Morten and as local and eclectic as Pil-Oga-Robics have been painting together and bonding over art.
It delights Jackson and Jenssen that they get to provide a sanctuary for art for kids and adults. They love it when a first timer leaves class to go set up a mini art studio in their own home. They know all about the levels of selfish enjoyment that comes to people while painting for themselves, the release and confidence that comes from knowing a few new techniques.
The art camps for kids coming up this summer are half day adventures for 8-12 year olds or 10-14 year olds on weekday mornings. Parents stay for the first part of the first day and come back the last hour on Friday for a studio gallery show put on for friends and family.
For class and class scholarship information, summer camp schedules, fundraising and team building options and to reach Jackson and Jenssen for school visits, contact them through the Art School Studio web site: www.artschoolstudio.com. 503.232.1280.