A new Ahwatukee art studio that opened in late March has proven to be a successful venture for owners Dale Lewis and his wife Beverly Yantorno.
Their wide variety of classes and opportunities for private artistic gatherings – including corporate team building – has provided the business owners at 4221 E. Chandler Blvd. with an optimistic outlook on their future.
Lewis and Yantorno have hand-selected talented and experienced area teachers who offer classes in not only traditional and abstract painting, but also in jewelry beading, soap making, drawing and sketching, alcohol inks painting, meditation and basic Feng Shui.
All classes are geared to age 13 and older. Some classes even include a meal, and at evening classes, adults can bring their own wine or beer.
And should one wonder where the garden is in Art in the Garden Studio, they need only look to the left of the business entrance, where a formerly cholla-strewn, inhospitable desertscape has been turned into a Zen garden of sorts, complete with picnic tables, planters, peace poles inscribed with inspirational messages and strings of white lights for evening ambience.
In many ways, this area is a tribute to Yantorno – a Colorado Master Gardener who worked in the floral industry as a designer and landscape consultant before owning a Denver boutique real estate firm.
The couple moved to Arizona in 2017.
It was last December that the couple found the perfect storefront for their art studio, located in the complex behind Ahwatukee’s 15-year-old Arrivederci Trattoria.
Lewis said the vision of the Art in the Garden Studio is “to draw the community together by providing a serene and relaxing space to indulge in art of many types.”
Lewis, a banker in Colorado before going into IT, said he knows the joys and pitfalls that taking the leap to establish a new business can bring.
“I was a small business banker for over 20 years so I helped a lot of entrepreneurs realize their dreams with business planning and financing,” he said.
“It wasn’t just about loans,” he added, “but providing a second set of eyes to help them set up their business and help them grow and I got a lot of satisfaction seeing these people succeed.”
His passion for helping those in need brought him to work with the Salvation Army in Colorado, where he served on the board of directors.
Though he said he’s not an artist, the concept for the couple’s first business together was well-established before they signed their lease in January.
“People don’t have to be an artist,” Lewis explained. “We have great instructors to show them, and no one’s going to critique your work. There’s no pressure here to be award-winning artists. If you want to learn to be, that’s great, we’ll help you, but we want people to come, relax and be creative. And be happy.”
One of the first to enroll in an Art in the Garden Studio class was 27-year Ahwatukee resident and former University of Arizona professor Maureen Kartchner.
“I’m not artistic at all but I’m willing to try something new,” said Kartchner, who taught family life education. “My first class was alcohol ink painting, and it was perfect for me because I’m a bit of a perfectionist.”
She explained that alcohol ink is a colorful, acid-free medium capable of creating colorful abstract collages, and can even be created by blowing the ink with a straw.
“Whatever you paint is okay, and it’s really fun,” said Kartchner regarding the class she took with instructor Lindsay Needham.
Kartchner said she’s since taken two soap-making classes with Tish D’Antoni.
“You get to make at least four bars of soap and you wrap it in tulle and its ready to give as a gift. The instructor told us how we could do it at home, but I like the classes because I don’t have to worry about cleaning up the mess,” she laughed.
“I also took acrylic painting and even though I’d never painted anything before, I did a wonderful painting. Even I liked it.”
For Marla Rose, a Denver area resident who with her husband Rich, lives part-time in Ahwatukee, and the newly-opened art studio fit a niche she’d been searching for locally.
“While driving along Chandler Boulevard one afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I noticed the new studio. So, I stopped in to see what was available as far as activities, classes and such. I met Bev and Dale, and they told me about a painting class that evening, and encouraged me to check it out. I thought the price was affordable, so I decided to attend,” she recalled.
Rose recounted how as a child she’d learned some painting techniques from her father, an artist who worked primarily in oils, but admitted she hadn’t pursued art.
“It can be very intimidating at first, starting with a blank canvas, and hearing the teacher tell you that you’re going to paint this beautiful scene. Ours was a seaside scene with a lighthouse,” she added, noting:
“I was happy to discover that our instructor was very good at guiding us through each step to complete our painting, and taught us many techniques that I’d remembered learning from my dad. And when we were done, mine actually wasn’t too bad.”
With the acrylic paint class behind her, Rose said she’s readying to take a watercolor class, a medium her father taught her.
“I’m so glad to have found this studio so that I can pursue some artistic hobbies while spending time here in Phoenix,” she said.
For Pam Sutton, the instructor for drawing, and acrylic and watercolor painting classes, the experience of teaching at Art in the Garden studio has been fulfilling.
“It’s very satisfying when students are happy, and often amazed, with their creations,” she said. “When people tell me they don’t think they have talent, I remind them that every child is born an artist. I believe there are no “mistakes” in art, and that every setback we experience when learning is a stepping stone toward mastery.”
Sutton said the community response has been “very positive.”
“The folks who attend say that just a few hours of creative time really fills a great need for relaxation in their busy lives,” said Sutton, explaining that she’d “reengaged with art classes” after her children grew up and left home.
The bios of all current artist/instructors are featured on the Art in the Garden Studio website.
The studio is as diverse as each artist, and there are myriad opportunities for groups as well as individuals.
Team building sessions or business appreciation parties care becoming popular as the Ahwatukee’s Kokopelli Dentistry staff recently proved at a soap-making class.
“As soon as an opportunity came up for us to take our team out for a team-building activity we thought of Art in the Garden Studio,” said Dr. Harveer Kaur, who with her husband Supreet Nagi, own Kokopelli Dentistry.
“It turned out to be the best team-building event so far. The entire staff was excited to make personalized soaps and scrubs and share with their family. We look forward to holding our next few events there to try out their various offerings,” said Kaur.
Maureen Kartchner said as a single woman, she found that signing up solo and not having to register in a group, was refreshing and simple.
“At Art in the Garden, you can go as a single person. You just find a class you want, call and make an appointment. You also make new friends,” said Kartchner. “I think it’s a great place for the community to go, and learn, and have fun.”
Classes are listed online and offer a brief description of what the class entails. All materials are provided.
Lewis and Yatorno are aware summer in Arizona brings its own challenges to local businesses, but they’re prepared.
“We may do more evening classes this summer, and we won’t be out in the garden—that’s for sure. We made sure our air conditioning was in really good working order when we took over the space,” laughed Lewis. “In the fall and winter we’ll offer outside classes.”
For more information on classes, see the monthly calendar at ArtintheGardenStudio.com. They’re also on Facebook and Twitter.