4Cats opens for kids

When Rhonda Findley saw her six-year-old daughter, Isobel Lomax, “covered head-to-toe with paint and a big smile on her face,” she couldn’t have been happier. “You’d never let your kids do this in your own house.”

Dozens of kids grabbed paint brushes and molded clay for the grand opening of Halifax’s newest art studio for children.

Located on Oxford Street, it is the first 4Cats location in Atlantic Canada.

Since its first studio opened in Victoria back in 2005, 4Cats has grown to more than 70 locations in Canada, the United States, Mexico and Australia.

Nichola Precious, owner of 4Cats in Halifax, heard about the franchise while living in Vancouver last year and purchased a location last May. Owning a studio “was a dream of mine,” she says.

One of the most popular features of the studio is the splatter room, an area where kids can throw paint at their canvasses without worrying about making a mess on the floor or walls.

This freedom, Findley says, is her favourite part about the studio.

For those interested in more than just painting and clay sculpture, 4Cats offers classes on public art like graffiti, the Japanese comic book style manga and “pixel art,” inspired by the video game Minecraft.

Amanda Rogers has her two- and-a-half year old son Eko already signed up for the first class on Monday.

In the studio's splatter room, making a mess is no big deal. (Photo: Michael Lee)
In the studio’s splatter room, making a mess is no big deal. (Photo: Michael Lee)

She says the studio is a way for her son to express his feelings without having her in the background. “’Cause we’re not doing this in my kitchen,” she says with a laugh.

Natalie Viecili, a 4Cats community connector and the daily contact for any inquiries Precious has, says the studios incorporate the Montessori school method, a style of education based on the work of Dr. Maria Montessori.

The Montessori technique tries to foster independence, allowing children to not only follow their own interests but also to work at their own pace.

4Cats incorporates this by teaching kids how to set up and put away their own art supplies, for example.

Having them repeat the same practices reinforces this, says Viecili. In addition to learning about famous artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Andy Warhol, children also learn where the artists came from, what sort of techniques they used in their art and fun stories about them.

Viecili says van Gogh, for example, worked at a bookstore and a church, as well as for art dealers before he became the famous artist known today.

In a review of the Nova Scotia school system released last October, based off surveys and consultations with more than 19,000 people, the Minister’s Panel on Education recommends more opportunities be provided for students interested in the arts.

Precious says 4Cats can supplement art outside of schools. She wants people to have the opportunity to create art and says everyone can be artistic. “You just need someone to facilitate it.”

Other local businesses, such as Marijke’s Art Class and Clay Café, also provide classes for kids.

Kids colour their canvasses (and the wall) as they enjoy the splatter room. (Photo: Michael Lee)
Kids colour their canvasses (and the wall) as they enjoy the splatter room. (Photo: Michael Lee)