Art! It’s Fun & Fundamental – Three North State Studios Offer Arts Classes for Healthier, Happier People.

Many people appreciate the enjoyment received from creating art, but probably few understand its benefits to health and happiness. Making art teaches appropriate ways to problem solve and deal with stress, and how to process emotions and embrace challenges.

art-0114-blue-giraffeBlue Giraffe Studios

Even those who are intimidated or uninterested in visual arts can benefit from practicing an art form. For individuals who feel they are not artists, Marcy Lauben, of Blue Giraffe Studios in Redding, offers art classes using the Monart teaching method, which breaks down and explains the steps that most “natural” artists intuitively use to create.

Lauben discovered the Monart method after being hired as an art teacher at a private school in Virginia, when she was pushed to find an effective technique. Monart was such a success at the school that Lauben’s curriculum is still used there seven years later. After moving with her family to California two years ago, she began teaching art as a volunteer in her son’s classroom at Grant School. His teacher was impressed with the results, and now several Grant School teachers have been trained in the Monart Method and use it in their classrooms.

[sws_pullquote_left] “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” ~ Thomas Merton [/sws_pullquote_left]

Art education helps with other aspects of education. Creating art enhances visual, audio and kinetic learning styles, says Lauben. “If a student can draw what they need to learn, they learn it better,” she adds. Researchers at Champions for Change, a program sponsored in part by the Kennedy Center, found that students who participated in after school programs of any kind, such as sports, academic clubs, or community groups, did better both in and outside of school than students without those opportunities. And students who specifically participated in after-school art programs did the best of all.

Lauben believes there is no wrong way to do art, and that drawing or painting something you don’t like means you learned something that day. She loves working with children, and her positive attitude is part of why her after school program is so popular. She also teaches adult classes and private lessons, and visits two retirement homes where she offers classes to residents. She hopes to soon offer additional classes through Redding Parks and Recreation.

art-0114-chico-art-schoolChico Art School

For Janet Lombardi Blixt, owner of Chico Art School on Broadway in Chico, her greatest challenge with teaching art is getting adults to let go and have fun. She shares that while children are more naturally relaxed with art, adults place expectations on themselves to perform. “They want everything they do to be perfect,” she says. Blixt believes that making art can help you de-stress your life. “The benefit of using creating art is that there is little concept of time, and one can really forget about one’s problems and anything in life that is unpleasant,” she explains.

Blixt offers painting classes in whatever medium a student chooses, as well as drawing, and mosaics occasionally, for all ages and all levels of ability. Some of her students have been with her since the center opened, and seeing the progress they’ve made inspires her. There are two classrooms in the studio, allowing advanced and beginning students to work simultaneously.

Chico Art School has been in business for six years, and for five of those years, Blixt has received the Chico News and Review’s Best of Chico award for Best Artist; this year she received an award for Best Teacher as well.

art-0114-red-bluffRed Bluff Art Gallery International

At Red Bluff Art Gallery International, art instructor Anastasia Nelson, along with her assistant teachers, offers art classes using mediums such as watercolors, paints, pencils and clay. Students range in age from 7 to 94, and younger students are welcome when participating with a parent.

Nelson is of the opinion that her students should not learn to do art like she does, but rather should strive to be the best of themselves. While studying art at UC Davis, she noticed the class structure did not allow for collaboration or creativity. In the studio, Nelson encourages family members to take workshops together, and students to share their work with the class.

[sws_pullquote_left]“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” ~Pablo Picasso [/sws_pullquote_left]

“When we explore our own stories and share our stories, we enrich them,” Nelson says. It is important to her to offer fun and relaxing opportunities for self-expression, while building self-esteem and helping students educate themselves. Each class begins with a standardized demo and progresses from there at each student’s own pace and in the direction of the students’ personal skills and interests. Some students are most talented in form and line, while others excel with color. The important thing, she says, is to learn to move forward through mistakes and turn failures into triumphs – to have fun and to make progress.

Participating in art classes can help you attain a robust and contented life. Seek out one of these forums to begin or continue your artistic journey to well-being. 


  • Anastasia Nelson at Red Bluff Art Gallery International, (530) 529-1332.
  • Janet Lombardi Blixt at Chico Art School, (530) 570-3895.
  • Marcy Lauben at Blue Giraffe Art Studios, (530) 622-7746.
Kimberley Harper
About Kimberley Harper

Writer Kimberley Harper lives with her family and her cats in Siskiyou County. In her work in support of artists, she has come to a deep appreciation of the value of arts in the community.

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