A new art venture has brought a splash of color to a Henrico shopping center.
Happy Palette, which offers art classes for children ages 1 to 15, opened in early November at 10450 Ridgefield Parkway in the Gleneagles Shopping Center.
Behind the concept is Mary Beth Blackwood, a former elementary school teacher who taught art for about 10 years in Chesterfield County.
Ready for a change of pace after a year out of the workforce to care for a newborn daughter, Blackwood said the pandemic’s disruptions of kids’ academic and extracurricular experience created the right moment to start an art studio, which is something she’s long wanted to try.
“I thought it would turn out to be good timing,” she said. “I wanted to create a happy and inviting space for kids to come to after virtual school all day.”
The studio has a range of classes aimed at different age groups, the most popular of which is Toddler Time, a $20 session aimed at children 1-3 years old and a parent or caretaker, Blackwood said.
“There are parents who are just so happy to have a place to go and let their kids be social,” Blackwood said. “We were used to swimming lessons, story times and it all just went away.”
Other classes include six-week courses aimed at elementary school-aged children and teens. The studio also offers one-off classes and classes for children with special needs. Most class options are $20 per session, according to the studio’s website. The studio currently only offers in-person small group classes due to the pandemic.
Blackwood said her teaching background has been useful to get the studio up and running, and that it hasn’t been too difficult to accommodate COVID-related health concerns into her programming.
“It’s actually been really fun,” she said. “Now that we’ve been doing this for 10 months, it’s kind of ingrained in you that you need to think about space and sanitation.”
Among the safety measures in place is a prohibition on shared art materials. Students are assigned studio materials for their individual use. Supplies are disinfected after every class.
The studio’s space is about 1,800 square feet. Blackwood is currently the only employee, but she hopes to add more staff in the future, which will allow her to expand her hours of operation as well. The studio sees about 20 to 25 kids a week.