Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with the team behind Creatively Wild Art Studio, based in Dumbo, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am the founder and owner of Creatively Wild Art Studio in DUMBO, we are an award-winning art school. We were the first original art school in the Dumbo area, opening our doors in 2009. We proudly serve the neighborhoods of Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Park Slope, Downtown Brooklyn, Downtown Manhattan, Tribeca, the Financial District, Seaport, and many more! We are located one stop on the subway or ferry from Manhattan and are open every day.
We won Best Art School 2021 and 2022 and we are nominated again for 2023.We offer a full adult program of art classes, and a huge variety of after-school art programs for kids and teens, a weekend program, and not forgetting- our toddler program for wee budding artists. We also offer private art lessons in studio, online, and offsite; painting parties for adults for all occasions: birthdays, engagements, milestones, seasonal parties, etc. and our award-winning Kid's birthday parties ( rated 5*****s), Team Building + Corporate Events and group lessons for visiting schools to NYC.
We also offer our wildly popular camp program all year round: our holiday and seasonal art camps run through the fall and winter on public holidays and during school recess and are also offered on spring break, as is our summer camp program, which runs from June to September. Our art camps are offered for both children and teenagers, and we also offer a stop-motion animation camp.
Our goal is to bring out the very best in each individual; we believe every artist is different and everyone has the right and the capacity to express themselves freely and creatively, and our aim is to provide a safe place to work and play. Art is nourishing for young minds and a great tool for developing fine motor skills and helping build confidence! Under our nurturing guidance, we encourage our young and emerging artists to make their own creative choices, allowing them to express themselves freely while tapping into their individual personalities.
Many of our young students have been coming to us for literally years; some have grown up with us. Our adult program has been recently nominated for "Best Continuing Educational Program." We appreciate that all our adult students are coming to us at different levels; some are coming to us for the first time with a beautiful curiosity to create, while others have taken classes before and want to upskill, work on personal ideas, or learn new media. And our more experienced artists, who might be gathering ideas for future personal work.
Our aim is to create a welcoming, sacred place for students to both work and play, whether that be a relaxing Paint and Sip evening art class or for those looking for a more focused commitment to a particular media. We are committed to providing all students with a creative, engaging curriculum, and we welcome feedback and involvement in all disciplines.
Tell us about yourself
I am the artistic director, creator, and CEO of Creatively Wild Art Studio. I am originally from Auckland, New Zealand. I studied fine arts in New Zealand and spent many years working as a teaching artist in New Zealand, the U.K., France, and Italy before coming to New York in 2006.
My own work has been exhibited and sold to museums and private collectors extensively throughout the Asia Pacific, Europe, South America, and the U.S.A. I was called a trailblaze for my work on the expressive arts after-school program for Jim Pugliese, "Leap Rave," funded by The Bloomberg Project, which was formed to transform schools and engage at-risk youth in the South Bronx. It won the PACE Best After-School Award in New York. I was asked by "LeAP" (the largest and oldest non-profit organization in the US) to design and expand my art expression program with at-risk youth throughout the five boroughs. It created an art expression and urban arts program at Harlem Village Academies and played a key role in the "Find Your Passion" initiative, which has been lauded by President Obama and Mayor Bloomberg. Similarly, I developed and oversaw after-school art programs for the Fieldston School in the Bronx. I also ran the children’s and family zone for the Dumbo Arts Festival in 2015. My teaching principles have always acknowledged the boundaries that can separate us, and my mission is always to find what can unite and heal us unbiasedly through the power of intrinsic self-expression.
In 2019, I received the Dumbo Dozen Award, which honors individuals and organizations in DUMBO that have made amazing contributions to the neighborhood in a significant way and highlights those doing fascinating and impactful work in their industries. It was a huge honor!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
It was always my dream to create my own studio. Creatively Wild Art Studio is a welcoming place to nurture artistic expression for all, a sacred space for all to breathe, and a place to find positivity through connecting with individual artistic expression. And I am always aware that I need to nurture that dream as it continues to grow and evolve every day.
I am always looking for ways to better our program and bring creative involvement to a wide diversity of students and disciplines. Having the support of our Dumbo community and the personal relationships we have with our loyal students has been paramount to our growth and success. To strive for an inspiring, comprehensive program that is second to none and to remain a trusted place for our community to come for their artistic practice is at the heart of everything I believe in for Creatively Wild Art Studio.
As a small business owner, I am so grateful for our great team. Our teaching artists have a wide range of visual arts education and are well-versed in both traditional art tuition and more specialized new media. We also have guest artists featuring a lot of local and well-known Brooklyn artists who teach workshops at our studio for media like graffiti, street art, and modern classical art. All our staff is trained to meet the individual’s needs and goals. Our classes are always kept small, so each student receives one-on-one attention and guidance to succeed in their particular endeavors. We have seen many teen artists take our Portfolio Preparation classes with us and watched them go on to secure places at top schools like LaGuardia. It is our privilege to provide an inspiring program and be part of each student's artistic journey.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
As a small business owner, you deal with a lot of really "big" things and learn how to navigate the turning tides—quite literally, those tides hit us with Hurricane Sandy, which destroyed many businesses in Dumbo. At the time, we were in our original studio, which was much smaller and in a basement. We were only just starting to get the business going, so we were literally trying to rescue a flooded basement studio; we had to dig up waterlogged floorboards and lots of our beloved Dumbo community helped us in our task to quite literally save our art studio. Being a small business and being hit by something catastrophic like this (that we did not see coming) certainly impacted our small business, and it took us a good few years to recover from it.We did a fundraiser and were lucky enough to stay afloat, so we moved into a gorgeous new and much bigger space.
Of course, it goes without saying that being hit, like so many others, by COVID-19 a few years later has been another equally tough and challenging factor we did not see coming and were not prepared for. With limited resources, we had to scramble to bring our art programs online and keep our staff employed and our doors open, and it has been very tough, but thank heavens for our staff and our beloved loyal community that continued to support us over the last few years. Dumbo is really a magical place, and we are so blessed to call it home.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Believe in your own vision.
- Hard work.
- And adapting...
We like to adapt, grow, and evolve into the best that we can be, and we strive for the highest level of programming that reaches each individual personally. We listen to our students and are 100 % committed to providing our customers with a creative, engaging curriculum. We welcome personal feedback and involvement in all disciplines. We pride ourselves on being a people business, and we often run partnerships with lots of local schools and businesses., Collaboration is important to us and being part of the bigger picture— our community in DUMBO + beyond! We have long standing relationships with the incredible DUMBO BID, and we run our popular Dumbo Drink + Draw in the Summer, which is offered for adults outdoors under the DUMBO Archway with amazing local guest artists. It has grown significantly since its inception a few years ago.
We are also partners with the local community groups, parent groups and businesses in our area, and we also work with lots of visiting tour groups and schools, team building events and companies in our area. We try to give back as best we can. Over the years, we have worked with many charities like Ronald McDonald House and children with disabilities, and we give back to local schools and businesses in our areas. Giving back is important to us. We are a very small team but we try to accommodate as best we can.
Where can people find you and your business?
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