By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
If Mahssa Hashemi ever wants to try something new at work, she has someone willing to help test it: her 2-year-old daughter.
In fact, Laila is a key reason why Hashemi switched from being a waitress to opening Young at Art last month at 3924 River Road North, the former Mother Goose Resale location.
“She does really well in here,” Hashemi said of her daughter. “I bring her in to try out ideas. When people call and ask about activities for their 2-year-old, I can say what my daughter likes.”
Young at Art – the name was picked over two others in an online contest – opened in mid-January with a simple premise: give youth a place to be creative with their art, without making a mess in the house.
To help with that, Hashemi and fiancé Jeremy Pfeil had an immediate task once they signed the lease to their building on Jan. 1.
“As soon as we signed the lease, we started pulling up the carpet,” Hashemi said, breaking into a grin. “It wouldn’t be a good mix with all of the painting.”
Ah yes, the painting. There are different art stations set up, with the most visible ones in front with the easels as well as the dresser and car body young artists can paint.
“I looked at several spots,” Hashemi said. “This was the third place. When I saw this space, I saw this could work with what I wanted to do. I wanted tables for craft items. I wanted big windows for the easel painting area so kids could have a lot of light. I wanted a separate room for jewelry making. This building was love at first site, minus the office carpeting.”
From the start, Hashemi has been overwhelmed by the support from mom groups, church groups and homeschool programs.
“The first month has been amazing,” she said. “It’s been mainly word of mouth. Kids have been good about getting their moms to come in here. I’ve been talking to several moms, who helped spread the word. They pass out fliers for me.”
Young artists can make projects and take them home, or contribute to the pieces of art that stay in the studio. Sessions are $6 per artist, with no time limits. Youth at Art is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 2 to 7 p.m. on Saturdays.
Hashemi has noticed two times of day tend to be most popular at her studio.
“We get a rush when we first open for the day, then again in the afternoon after nap times,” she said. “The craft station is the most popular area. I want a good variety of items for the kids.”
Brandie Knapp and Krissy Wood were among the moms who showed up Tuesday shortly after the studio opened.
Both women had their 4-year-old daughters with them: Chloe Knapp and Rachel Wood.
“She’s a pro,” Wood said while watching Rachel. “She came here with daddy on Friday. It was a big hit. She was definitely talking about it. She did painting on the car and the dresser. She was here for two hours.
“I think this is great,” Wood added of the studio. “It’s great to have a kid activity like this here in Keizer. I’m so excited it opened.”
Knapp enjoys the ability of children to not worry about the mess.
“It’s nice to have a place where they can make a mess,” she said while watching Chloe grab a brush and paint the car. “I think the floor will look really cool in a couple of months with all the paint on it. It’s nice to have a place inside on a rainy day. It’s different than just a play area, which is nice.”
Chloe, meanwhile, enjoyed adding her artistic touch to the car.
“I’m going to paint it purple,” she said. “That’s my favorite color.”
Hashemi noted it is not just the children who benefit from making trips to the studio.
“Groups come in here,” she said. “Moms get to socialize and know their kids will be content with an activity for more than 10 minutes.”
Hashemi said the car will likely be painted white every couple of weeks to give young ones a clean canvas. At the same time, she would like to add more items.
“My next thing will be to get about 20 white shoes and let them come up with their own designs,” Hashemi said.
More information about Young at Art is available at www.facebook.com/youngatartkeizeror or by calling 503-737-4271.