BROWNSBURG, Ind. — Although she was a teacher by trade, Laura Gambrel had long dreamed of having a space where kids could go to channel their own creativity.
Then, she decided to put that dream into action.
“A couple years ago, it just was kind of like, ‘If not now, when?” she recalled.
Gambrel started small by offering art classes at a local park and gradually growing and expanding soon after. Ultimately, she opened Brightly Art Studio, located at 1451 S. Green Street (Suite C) in Brownsburg.
Since opening the studio, she’s helped give kids a “joyful and creative” outlet, which has been more important than ever over the last few months.
Here, the same principles she teaches inside the art studio have helped carry her and her students through a challenging time.
When Gambrel founded Brightly Art Studio, she wanted to incorporate a lesson she’d learned as a life-long creative by offering what she calls a “process” art studio.
“We say that the joy is in the process….It’s not the final product that gives me the joy,” she said. “It’s the process of creating: making a mess, trying something new, pivoting when things don’t go as planned.”
And things definitely didn’t go as planned when the pandemic forced her to close for nearly 2 months. But she embraced the process and found ways to pivot and try something new.
Her goal was to find a way to continue providing what she calls “joyful and creative” experiences for kids in the area.
“It really became a focus of how can I give my community a real big artistic hug,” she explained. “Because parents want those things for their kids, and sometimes they don’t know how to go about it.”
One way she helped make that happen—free of charge—was through Facebook.
“I started doing live teaching on Facebook on Fridays at 10 am, where I would send a quick message [saying], ‘Here’s some things you have around your house. Sit your kids around the iPad or the TV and I’m going to teach them for a whole hour,” Gambrel said.
Four Things You Need to Know About Brightly Art Studio:
- Owner Laura Gambrel is a former teacher in Brownsburg, but had always dreamed of a space where she could share her love of art and creativity in a space where kids could express themselves through art. She started by offering art classes in a local park and ultimately opened own studio space, named Brightly Art Studio (located at 1451 S. Green Street, Suite C, Brownsburg, IN 46112)
- Brightly Art Studio is a “process” art studio, which means they focused more on the creative process itself. “We’re not focused on what the end result will look like because that’s not where the magic is,” their website reads.
- When the pandemic forced her to temporarily close the doors of her studio, Gambrel was determined to give kids a creative outlet. She started teaching weekly lessons on Facebook live, started a blog called “Brightly at Home”, began virtual classes and camps and launched “Brightly Boxes”, which are themed at-home kits for kids to enjoy creative, open-ended play.
- In-person kids’ summer art camps recently re-launched, with a limited number of students per session and other social-distancing and health-conscious precautions taken. But she is still offering virtual camps throughout the summer for those parents/families who choose that option. Next month, Gambrel is hoping to offer outdoor family-nights and –down the line—she looks forward to offering their usual art classes, clubs and workshops for pre-school-adult age groups, as soon as it is safe to do so.
The studio also started offering virtual camps and clubs and created a blog on called “Brightly at Home” to guide parents in cultivating creativity at home.
They even launched themed at-home kits called “Brightly Boxes”, which drop every Tuesday through the end of the summer
”It provides a way for the parents to delight their kids,” said Gambrel. “It’s an open-ended creative play. There are no instructions; kids instinctively know what to do…. So [this week], we’ve got aliens and planets and glitter paper and a whole array of supplies.”
The studio also received a relief grant from the town of Brownsburg, which provided the funds to adapt the space for social distancing and other precautions leading up to their re-opening.
“It’s just been heartwarming, “ Gambrel reflects. “[It] just makes me full of all the warm fuzzies when I think about our town, our community and the way they’ve come together to support each other.”
When in-studio summer art camp officially started up on the first week of June, it did so with a limited amount of students, custom-made children’s masks for each camper and a kid-friendly approach to social distancing (which allows the kids to use colorful tape to create their own “islands” on the floor around their work space).
Gabrel says the studio has already received great feedback from parents for the precautions she has implemented in person. But she also recognizes the spectrum of comfortability levels each parent may have when it comes to returning—or not returning—to in person activity just yet.
“We reached out to all of our camp families and said, ‘Here is our plan: This is what we’ll do in-studio and if you’re not comfortable with that, let’s have an equally amazing experience online,” she recalled.
The online experience includes a once-a-week virtual camp that will continue throughout the summer.
“[Virtual camp] also allows for people from not within the community to be a part of what we’re doing here… but they also can continue to send their kids to the in-person camps.”
Before she starts adding back the other wide ranges of classes and workshops (for pre-school age through adults), Gambrel said she will continue monitoring the latest guidance from the CDC and local governments, while focusing on making sure their summer camps continue being a fun and safe place to be.
Going forward, she hopes to start doing outdoor family nights in July, by utilizing the large grassy field behind the art studio.
“Just to provide a creative, messy fun experience for families to do together at a distance because I feel like… families, we need some fun. We need some joy,” said Gambrel. “We need something that’s messy that’s not at our house… and I feel like we can provide that.”