Neon colors splash nearly every surface in Laura Gambrel’s art studio on the west side of Brownsburg. A wall of readily available craft supplies, from paints to glue and glitter, span the far wall. It’s a place of color, possibility and creation, and it’s Gambrel’s happy place. It’s Brightly Art Studio, and between art classes, camps and art club, Gambrel stays busy and happy for this new space that fosters community and creativity.
Gambrel had always dreamed of teaching art but was afraid she couldn’t make a living doing it. She taught fourth grade for eight years in Brownsburg schools and then went on to become the Early Childhood Director at Connection Pointe Christian Church.
“I always had a dream of opening an art studio,” Gambrel says. “I wanted it to be a happy place to build a community for kids who are creative.”
Gambrel’s husband suggested that Gambrel finally start her own art studio. She began conducting classes at Williams Park in Brownsburg, teaching art classes in the outdoor shelters. She went on to rent storage space above Ella Mae’s boutique before finally opening her own space, a brick storefront in Brownsburg, last May. Just a little over a year later, the classes at her little studio fill up almost immediately.
She particularly loves having her art studio in Brownsburg because there aren’t a lot of creative outlets for kids in a county that offers a large number of sports. Gambrel’s daughter, in particular, was needing a creative space and community.
“This is a happy, joyful place where there’s no pressure to be anything but who you really are,” Gambrel says. “In the heart of every child, they want to explore their surroundings. And in the heart of every parent, they want to enable their kids to do that. I take away the stress of getting out supplies and cleaning up messes so that parents can enable their kids to be creative.”
Classes are available for preschool children (18 months up to five years), elementary-aged, and tweens and teens. Workshops explore a specific theme, such as animals or outer space, while labs explore a particular medium, like clay, Papier-mâché or paint. There are Family Art Workshops available and even an open studio, which is not an instructed class but simple, creative exploration.
Gambrel’s approach to art is a little unconventional. She heavily relies on process art, which is where the focus and joy come more from the creating as opposed to the final product.
“There are no expectations,” Gambrel says. “We don’t do guided drawing. I don’t ever show an example. When things don’t go the way they want, they can just pivot and go in a different direction. It’s a life lesson.”
Laura Gardner, one of her instructors, loves the idea of process art.
Gardner has been an elementary art teacher in Brownsburg for five years, and she taught Gambrel’s children there. Once the women realized their shared passion for art, the friendship led to Gardner teaching a few classes at Brightly Art Studio, such as preschool playtime and elementary workshops.
“We see eye to eye on the same type of art philosophy,” Gardner says. “I love that the kids just get to shine there. They get to explore and experiment with materials and processes. There are no right or wrong answers.”
Gambrel’s studio is small, but she likes it that way. She has all her materials and tools on full display, her only rule that children ask first before they use any materials. The answer is usually yes.
Classes have no more than 10 kids. Gambrel wants to connect with kids, and she wants them to connect with each other.
“That relational piece is a huge part of the studio,” Gambrel says. “You don’t come and take an art class and leave. You get to know everyone.”
Brownsburg resident Emily Zeto’s seven-year-old son Carter attends classes at Brightly. Zeto can’t say enough about what a wonderful opportunity it’s been for Carter.
“We started right off with camp,” Zeto says. “And the second day we pulled up, Carter said, ‘It’s my happy place!’ It just warmed my heart.”
Zeto says Carter has always been very creative but she and her husband haven’t known how to help him express it. Gambrel has been instrumental in giving Carter space and materials to do so. Zeto also appreciates that Carter can go to the studio, make a mess, and she doesn’t have to clean it up.
“I don’t mind messes,” Gambrel says.
Gambrel offers birthday parties as well, catering the theme to the interests and age of the child. A recent party she did was for an eight-year-old boy who loves nature. Gambrel had the kids create volcanoes of their own and then filled them with baking soda, vinegar, and paint and they exploded the volcanoes.
“I love watching the kids come alive,” Gambrel says. “Parents tell me their kids are so full of life when they leave this space. I love that for them. We need a generation of innovators who are full of life.”
To view the fall catalog or register for classes, you can visit Gambrel’s website brightlyartstudio.com. Brightly Art Studio is located at 1451 South Green Street in Brownsburg. You can give them a call at 317-850-7871 for more information.