Like the idea of crafting with your child but hate the thought of paint and glitter all over your living room? Looking for a spot to send the kids on a school holiday? Thinking about an arty birthday party or enrolling your little creative dynamo in an art class? The new drop-in art studio Private Picassos is the place to do all of that and more. Read on for the scoop on this fresh maker space!

A Colorful Background

Private Picassos is the brain child of self-proclaimed “die-hard Brooklynite” Valeen Bhat, who believes, as Picasso himself once said, that “every child is an artist.” Ten years ago, Bhat started Private Picassos as a “mobile art studio” to bring fine art instruction to the public. She took it from a one-woman show to a company with over 20 instructors working throughout the tri-state area. Now, she is setting up shop in Brooklyn with her first permanent walk-in art studio where kids ages 18 months and up can explore and create art with everything from acrylic on canvas to felt, clay and string.

From artists to art educators, everyone on staff at Private Picassos has experience working with kids. Bhat, the daughter of a painter/muralist and a blacksmith, got her start with a BFA/MS in Art and Design Education at Brooklyn’s own Pratt Institute. A resident of the borough for the last 15 years, Bhat says opening up the Art Studio in Brooklyn feels like home.

photo: Private Picassos

Space to Create

Private Picassos has a relaxed, airy feel to it, with white walls and plenty of cool artsy goodies to check out. The space includes a large communal table for older kids, as well as a tots table for the very little ones. In addition, the studio is home to a popular large scale painting palette and an enormous chalkboard wall, as well as an assortment of fun kid books for little ones to peruse. (This place is serious about being family-friendly: you’ll even find stroller parking inside the studio.)

The shop is also stocked with a pretty sweet retail section that features the work of local artists and authors, Etsy vendors and other small businesses.

Make Art Together
You don’t need to be a member here, or even make a reservation to start creating. Just walk-in, choose a project and get started.

Although the sweet spot for drop-in artistry here seems to be the three- to six-year-old set, Private Picassos has something for the very youngest of tots — starting at 18 months — as well as older children, and even for you. (In fact, Picassos was developed with parents in mind; Bhat says that her idea was to make a space that was at once whimsical and sophisticated so that adults would be just as excited about making art with the kids as the kids themselves.)

Thinking Outside the Pot

While painting prefab figurines can be fun, you will not find any ceramic princesses to paint at Picassos. Instead, you and your kid can choose from a list of over 12 different art activities to create something truly unique and imaginative.

The genius of Private Picassos is that most of the activities offered are actually packaged DIY art kits that you can either purchase and use in the studio or take home to do at your leisure. (They also make really great gifts.) Each kit comes with all the materials you need, as well as a set of pointers such as, “how to mix your colors” or “how to plan out your composition.”

Staff members are there to help you tailor the activity of your choice to your kid’s age and ability level, so everyone can have a good time as well as learn a little bit about art. One popular activity kit, “Model Magic Sculptures”, utilizes a fun, playdough-like medium that eventually hardens like clay. Older kids can create very detailed sculptures, while younger ones can just enjoy exploring the new medium, while also working on their fine motor skills.

“Recycled Robots” is one of Picassos’ more popular art kits: kids can construct and decorate their very own robot pal from (you guessed it) recycled materials. Other kits include make your own stuffed animal, faux stained glass, acrylic on canvas and weaving.

photo: Private Picassos

Good to Know
All the materials used at Private Picassos (except for the acrylic on canvas) are washable, and long sleeve smocks are provided for messier projects. All activities are available and tailored to all age ranges with the exception of the acrylic on canvas which is recommended for ages three and up. The majority of the projects offered are priced at $20 or less, and no project is more than $40.

Arty Parties
Birthday parties, one of Private Picassos’ specialties, will be available in the new studio as well, with prices starting at $55 per child. Parties include a two-hour use of the studio, about half of which is a guided art activity for the birthday kid and 11 of his or her closest friends. Private Picassos teams up with local eateries and bakeshops to get you a discount on birthday party noshables, too.

On the Horizon

The studio will feature a new, special project each week; pumpkin painting is coming soon in honor of Halloween.

Starting in January, Private Picassos will be offering more structured classes, available as drop-in sessions or a 10-week semester. Classes currently listed cover everything from shapes and colors to contemporary artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. On the third Wednesday of every month, Private Picassos will also be hosting evening workshops for grown-ups.  Make sure to keep tabs on their events calendar if you’re up for a more creative mom’s night out!

Private Picassos Art Studio
Open 7 days a week; 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
237 5th Ave.
Park Slope

Know a great new space to get your art on?  Let us know in the comments below!

— Hanna R. Neier

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