Messy Masterpiece

The dirt on arts and crafts studios all over PDX.

I really like the idea of Pinterest. I have all these beautiful boards filled with ideas for crafty time with my children ages 4, 2 and almost 1 — “Fun with the Kids,” “Ideas for the House,” along with one for every holiday.

Here’s the thing, though: I am terrible at actually doing Pinterest. These super-adorable, fun-filled projects are often, well, messy.

In my head I’m this cool, laid-back mom who has no problem with my kids emptying an entire bottle of glue onto a 2×2 piece of origami paper. In reality, I usually find myself hovering over my kids with a wet cloth as soon as the paint comes out, plotting how soon I can get everyone into the bath.

This is why the many “messy art” studios found in and around Portland are so great for our family. The kids can go crazy with the glue and paint (and even — gasp! — glitter) while doing well-thought-out art projects. And just as great, I don’t need to be hovering over them like a deranged helicopter mom.

My kids and I checked out three studios over the past few months, but these just touch the surface of the many kids’ art studios located in and around Portland.

Portland Child Art Studio (NW Portland).

Messy Masterpiece - Field Trip. Metro Parent Portland. March 2015

It doesn’t matter if paint gets on the wall (or the floor) at the Portland Child Art Studio.

This. Place. Is. Amazing. Like most messy art studios, there are multiple stations with which children can experiment — paper and markers, clay, gluing. They have lots of funky recycled materials to incorporate into projects such as bubble wrap, camera film, wine corks and yarn. The crown jewel of this place, though, is its painting area. Kids are given paints, huge pieces of blank paper, and the freedom to get the paint onto the paper in whatever way moves them. Although my kids preferred using brushes, the mad drips and dribbles of paint covering the studio’s back wall gave testament to the liberal use of paint splattering techniques à la Jackson Pollock. The teachers who work here are knowledgeable and explain the few rules of the studio in an accessible and friendly way.

Spark Arts Center (NE Portland).

This messy art studio takes up the back half of a pretty fabulous arts and crafts store. Multiple stations are set up with projects of varying difficulty, allowing your child to experiment and create in a structured but flexible way. They offer a different provocation at each station — gluing, painting, sponging, stamping and so forth. The projects change weekly and are often seasonal. Owners Marla and Julie are on hand to help with projects and offer suggestions, but are also happy to get out of the way if your child just wants to draw dinosaurs.

Vine Gogh Studios – Gogh Kids (SE Portland and Tigard).

Messy Masterpiece - Field Trip. Metro Parent Portland. March 2015

Some interpretations of the elf are a bit more abstract at Vine Gogh Artist Bar.

Although the bulk of Vine Gogh’s art nights are aimed at adults, both the Sellwood and Tigard studio also offer a weekly chance for kids to create their own canvas masterpiece. An artist leads children through the painting process step-by-step, with each child drawing their version of the same subject. Classes last about an hour and include a break for a small snack. Although these sessions are aimed at ages 4 and older, I took my 2-year-old and 4-year-old (along with the baby and a stack of graham crackers). While I was a bit nervous about how my 2-year-old would do, she had a grand old time filling her canvas with paint, and then some more paint, and then some more. Seriously, that thing didn’t dry for two days. And my 4-year-old made an elf of which he was justifiably proud.

If you go:

Portland Child Art Studio
Open studio hours vary; see website for details. $10/child.

Spark Arts
Preschool Messy Art, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-11 a.m. $7/1 hour or $10 for 2.

Vine Gogh:
Kid classes are offered most Thursdays at 4 p.m. in Sellwood and most Fridays at 4 p.m. in Tigard. $15.
Recommended for ages 4 and up.

Want even more options? Check out our Crafts Guide.

Ali Wilkinson
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Ali Wilkinson

Online Editor at PDX Parent
Ali Wilkinson is the Online Editor for PDX Parent, and is one of the founders of PDX Kids Calendar. She loves exploring Portland with her three small children, especially when the explorations lead outdoors, to music or to ice cream. You can read more from Ali at
Ali Wilkinson
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