The Bay Area’s Newest (and Non-Toxic) Art Studio

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Crumbs on the table? You’re all over them. Juice on the floor? Mopped up in a jiffy. But when it comes to paint and marker – well, the “abstract’s” been on the hallway wall since the baby was 2 and the carpet smudge that only grew bigger after scrubbing is hidden beneath an armchair. What’s a neat freak to do? Rather than banning the messy but imaginative creative arts from the kids’ repertoire, tote them over to Le Petit Matisse in Alameda, a spacious and light-filled new art studio, where the little ones can paint and draw on everything from the walls and floor to the keys on the piano. New in the neighborhood, Le Petit Matisse offers drop-in studio time, drop-off hours, parties, camps, and classes that Matisse himself would give a thumbs up.

When to go: Drop in during Open Studio hours (vary weekly) to check out the space. After you’re hooked, sign on for the studio’s popular art education classes, like Splatter Time for parents and toddlers getting creative at the sensory table, or Petite Pupil for 4- to 6-year-olds who’ll study the work of a master artist sans mom or dad. Classes are great because they’re limited to small sizes, with owner/instructor Eza providing personal attention to every student.

Parking: Free street parking is plentiful.

What to see: Music is always playing in the background at La Petit Matisse and the library is slowly being stocked with story books in several languages. The entire studio is like one giant canvas – kids can create art on practically every surface, with various materials that stimulate all five senses.

Possible lunch spots: Jay’s Café is conveniently located across the street. Franklin Park is a five-minute walk from the studio, with a terrific playground, field with climbing trees, and various benches upon which to enjoy your sandwich and pastries.

What to wear: While aprons will be provided, dress the tots in comfortable clothes that may get messy.

Need to know: Le Petit Matisse uses completely natural, non-toxic supplies, from the paint to the play dough to the aprons. You can smell the calming chamomile oil in the play dough; the aprons are locally made with organic cotton and hemp. Also, Le Petit Matisse is completely unique in offering studio time to the youngest of artists – one-year-olds are welcome, and Eza has even welcomed crawling 8-month-olds to get messy making art. The studio and materials, from the crayons made for tripod gripping to little tree stumps small enough for them to sit on, were carefully selected to enhance fine motor development in the earliest learners.

Cost of trip: Classes range from $80 to $96 per month; drop-in fees are $14 per child ($10 for additional sibling), with a 10-visit punch card for $180.


–Renee Macalino Rutledge