BY GABRIELA FITZPATRICK
Downtown Scranton has welcomed a new place for budding artists.
The Art Room, 305 Penn Ave., recently opened as a spot where children 18 months to 13 years can learn about art processes and mediums, get hands-on experience, and expand their imaginations and creativity.
Prior to opening the Art Room, owner Catherine Mineo worked as an art teacher for the Diocese of Scranton for 21 years, working with children in kindergarten through eighth grade. Although she retired from the job at the end of last school year, Mineo decided she wasn’t done working yet.
“I knew that I could never completely retire from something that’s always been such a vital part of my life. … That’s when I got to work planning the programs (for) the Art Room,” she said.
The Art Room opened in September on a block that has undergone a renaissance in recent years, with other small businesses opening up and down the street. Visitors to the Art Room will find loads of child-size tables, bare brick walls and classes geared toward specific age groups.
Mineo, who has lived in the city’s East Mountain section for the past 33 years with her husband and five children, chose the downtown location because she said she felt “a real connection to the 300 block of Penn Avenue.” Her children took dance lessons at neighboring Ballet Theatre of Scranton, and her daughter owns the Daisy Collective down the street. Mineo also has nieces and family friends who live in apartments on the same block.
So when the space became available, taking it for the Art Room was a “natural choice,” Mineo said, noting it “feels like home.” She believes the area has a lot of energy as well as being easily accessible since it sits off Mulberry Street.
Mineo knew she would need a large studio to maintain social distancing and keep the kids safe. The site offers around 2,000 square feet of space with what she described as “lots of charm in the brick walls, high ceilings and large bright windows.”
“It’s colorful with art everywhere you look,” Mineo said. “It really is a special place.”
Within those walls, Mineo offers seven classes that each run five weeks: Mini Makers, for toddlers 18 months and older accompanied by an adult; Art Room play groups, for ages 3 to 5; Mixed Media Clubs, for ages 6 to 10; and the Friday Night Art Club, for ages 10 to 13, among others.
The Art Room also hosts birthday parties, one-day camps, family nights and private art groups and expects to offer summer camps as well. Registration for session two is now open, with classes beginning Monday, Oct. 26. To register, visit theartroomscranton.com. Each class is capped at 10 children, and to abide by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, students will not share any equipment.
Once the coronavirus pandemic has passed, however, Mineo hopes kids will be able to come together, share and more at her space.
“(Something) I’d like to do is have our little artists become involved in the community,” Mineo said. “(We want to have) events here in the studio where the community can participate, but it’s pretty difficult now with COVID. We’re not really planning any gatherings like that yet but hopefully in the future … we’ll get there.”
Mineo noted that her own children were an “integral part in opening the studio,” and “as adults they’ve all come together and worked hard to help me open in a short amount of time.” She feels grateful, too, for the immediate support she received from the families of the children who have participated in programs there and the surrounding community. Since the studio opened toward the end of September, more than 60 students signed up for the first session, and a large number of families already have signed up for the next session.
Through the Art Room, children learn various processes to create art across different mediums, such as clay building, creating cardboard sculptures, weaving, making collages and more.
“Then we add paint to almost everything we do,” she said.
The main goal of working with children and art is to “encourage each one of them to reach his or her creative potential,” Mineo said.
“I really think that art should create the experience of discovery, and the focus should be on the process of making art rather than the final product,” she said.
Mineo also will encourage the children to learn valuable life skills while creating art.
“I feel that through art we can help the kids in the future by encouraging so many things like critical thinking, collaboration (and) communication, and I think the most important one is creativity,” Mineo said. “In the community, I think if our children succeed, it makes the community stronger.”
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127
If you go
- What: The Art Room
- Where: 305 Penn Ave., Scranton
- Details: theartroomscranton.com, 570-241-4801 or email@example.com