Messy Art Nirvana at Portland Child Art Studio

December 2014 review of Portland Child Art StudioFor various reasons, I have been home with at least two of my three children (Theo, 9 months; Clara, 2; and Grady, 4) for the past three weeks. There comes a point when not only can you not think of a single new thing to do, but you also cannot stomach the idea of cleaning up one. More. Thing.  So the kids and I headed out for some emergency messy art at Portland Child Art Studio.

Located in the Northwest Cultural Center, the same building as Northwest Children’s Theater, this place is truly a hidden gem. We were there on an unusually quiet day, so we had the place to ourselves for an entire hour. The kids were guided thoughtfully by one of the studio’s regular teachers, Megan. She explained the very limited rules of the studio and then let the kids unleash their creativity.

The kids started out slowly with some markers and paper (because you know, we can’t do that at home). But they quickly became entranced by the wall behind them completely covered with specks, drabs, and drips of paint except for several large sheets of white paper. This is where we spent most of our time.

December 2014 review of Portland Child Art StudioGrady chose to draw his now-perfected dragon, outer space, and then the alphabet. Clara went a bit more wild, drawing an abstract bird or two. Because no one was there, I even got to let Theo get a bit messy with his first painting project – although normally baby messy art is not encouraged. (This experiment was quickly aborted when he we realized that “painting” for Theo is shoveling paint into his mouth.) Almost as much fun for the kids as painting on the paper was the opportunity to mix colors of paint together. They were delighted to see red and white making pink, and just as delighted to see purple, green and orange making brown.

We finished up our time there with some clay work. Grady especially was much taken with squishing the clay through an old garlic press to make snakes/worms/hair. We didn’t have time to get to the gluing/sculpture projects using the studio’s many reclaimed materials (bubble wrap, wine corks, yarn, etc.).

December 2014 review of Portland Child Art StudioHere is what I love most about this studio: The kids are given very few formal boundaries. They are not shown a project that they then try to recreate (although we like this kind of art too). Instead, they are given the raw materials and can just create. There is nothing right or wrong about what they make – whatever they make is just as it should be. It was a fun experience for the kids, and a re-centering experience for me. Especially during the holidays it can be easy to fall into the rabbit hole of making handprint salt dough ornaments just so, or lovely handcrafted gift bags for the teachers, or gingerbread houses that are not only structurally sound but also aesthetically pleasing. This was the opposite of that, and it was perfect.

Portland Child Art Studio is located at 1819 NW Everett St. Open studio hours vary, and can be found here. Open Studio is $10/child for unlimited supplies and time. They also offer classes and a pretty rad space for birthday parties.

You can also check out the Hands On project – free-form superhero capes – contributed by Devon of the Portland Child Art Studio in the December issue of Metro Parent.

Ali and her family visited the Portland Child Art Studio on behalf of PDX Kids Calendar for review. She was in no way compensated for her opinions.

Ali Wilkinson
Follow me

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
Follow me

Latest posts by Ali Wilkinson (see all)