Looking for an outing that pleases both littles and their older siblings? Check out Northeast‘s new kids’ art studio, SunnyLove.  

There aren’t a lot of activities to entertain and appease my two kids with their wide age gap. My 7-year-old grows quickly bored by the “baby” stuff that appeals to my 1-year-old; and the toddler can give me a run for my money in places designed for school-aged kids. 

But art knows no age limits — nor skill limits, for that matter. Both my daughters reveled in their own creativity for a couple hours exploring the various mediums at the newer art studio, SunnyLove, in Northeast Portland. 

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The children’s creative space opened in September 2019 and offers both drop-in exploration and scheduled classes. The founder, Simonne Shelby, an artist and mother herself, was inspired to create a space to promote independent thought, creativity, and self-esteem through the practice of art and the exploration of art history. Additionally, SunnyLove is unique in its provision of high-end supplies — from tempera paints to watercolor paper to modeling clay. Not only did my kids have access to high-quality supplies, but they came home with goody bags full of the art they created and a few more mediums to explore on their own.

SunnyLove offers both open studio times (great for all ages) and scheduled art classes (designed for ages 3 and older). The open studio was perfect for my age-gap kids to explore various art mediums and at their own pace. (Pro tip: Aprons are available to protect from mess!) Shelby seamlessly differentiated the interests, attention spans, and materials of my 1- versus 7-year-old. The tempera paint sticks and kinetic sand were a favorite for my toddler — “more, more, more,” Birdy aggressively signed when she temporarily ran out of white space on the paper. And the spin art station was a definite hit with my 2nd grader and her best friend; Shelby encouraged them to experiment with mixing the paint colors and attempting to make different shapes in the spinner. We now have a medium-sized canvas of my youngest’s pre-writing paint scribbles hanging in the play room, and primary-colored “emoji” clay figures displayed on my eldest’s bedroom shelf (not to mention the half-dozen spin art paintings and painted ceramic pumpkins stashed with our fall decor). 

The weekend classes, designed for older kids, change regularly and are based around specific artists. Think self-portraits à la Frida Kahlo, collaborative paint-by-numbers after a lesson on Keith Haring.

Although I suspect my eldest was most enamored by having the studio — and Shelby’s attention — mostly to herself, she loved having access to a variety of art mediums that she doesn’t have at home or school. On our drive back home she told me, “When I first came in, I was like, ‘Is it just sketching?’ Because it’s so tidy. But there was just so much art!” Francie was not wrong — the space itself was open, bright and well-organized. 

Personally, I love the idea of supporting children’s development through not only creation, but art history, too. But more importantly, my kids happily killed two-plus hours creating in the studio; it was a great place to make art — and messes — somewhere other than my own home.

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Before You Go
309 NE Wygant St., Portland; 503-752-8819,
sunnylovepdx.com; @sunnylovepdx on Instagram.

All-ages open studio: Fridays 11 am-4 pm; $10 per child ($5 for kids under 2).

Class offerings: Saturdays/Sundays at scheduled times.10 am-6 pm; 2 ½ to 12 years; $20/child for 2-hour course. (You can drop off!)

Free on-street parking and ADA-accessible bathroom with changing table.

Pro tip: check the website for class details and pre-registration, and also to ensure the studio is not closed for a private event.

More Creative Spaces for Kids

The Portland Child Art Studio: open studio, art classes, birthday parties; 1819 NW Everett St. Suite 204

Smartypants PDX: open studio, classes, camps, birthday parties, adult craft nights; 5512 N. Montana Ave.

Scrap PDX: creative reuse/recycled materials, workshops; 1736 SW Alder St.,

The Craft Factory: open studio for all ages, birthday parties/
private events; 7832 SW Capitol Hwy., Suite B

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