I finally made it to the Albany Art Room! I’ve been wanting to visit ever since I found out about it while working on my Big Ol’ List of Links. Today we were planning on meeting W for lunch in downtown Albany with our out-of-town friends before saying goodbye to them, so it was the perfect opportunity to get a little artsy.
Basically, you pay $7 per hour per artist, and let the kids have at it. The walls have different completed objects to provide you with inspiration, and the shelves are packed with paints and brushes and paper and fabric and play-doh and beads and pompoms and all sort of materials for projects. It’s great for anyone who wants to encourage a little creativity, and especially for those who are squeamish about having all that creativity splattered around their own house (although you know I don’t fall into this latter category: W is still grumbling about the cooked egg that’s permanently adhered to our driveway). Anyway, all four kids–we ranged from an 11-year-old to 5-year-old J–crafted happily for the full hour, and they could have stayed there another hour, easy.
Of course, there’s a small store and a few items that you have to purchase separately. M wanted a little wooden doll (you can see hers in progress and a completed dolly below), and our oldest artist, Lizzie, painted on a real canvas. Altogether I dropped a bit under $20 for two kids doing art for an hour each, plus two wooden items that the girls painted to bring home. Now, you know I’m cheap, so this was a bit of a drag. But it didn’t give me quite the same yucky feeling that I’ve complained about at other pay-as-you go locations. First, because it’s actual stuff that they’re purchasing to take home, and second, because I didn’t feel like I was being fleeced. For example, when J immediately jumped on the lovely little wooden birdhouses that would have doubled my cost right then and there, Karen from the art room showed her the many other options, including the teensy treasure boxes which were cheaper and more manageable for her attention span, anyway.
And herein lies the charm beyond the oodles of supplies available: a friendly person to encourage and instruct your kids while still letting them do, pretty much, whatever. You & the kids tidy up a bit, but any serious paint scrubbing is left to others. You’re also more than welcome to help yourself to whatever you or your child needs to create their art. So it’s a comfortable, casual atmosphere, but much more relaxing than the same projects would be if you tried to do them at home. It seems like a good destination with friends so that the grown-ups can chat while the kids create. Although there are enough cool-looking projects that you’ll be tempted to do some grown-up art as well.
The Albany Art Room has memberships available as well as classes for kids and adults. They also do birthday parties, and I ran into a reader who’d had a birthday party there, and she said that it was great. There are even parties for grown-ups. Seriously: how’s this for a baby shower idea? Everyone makes onesies together, or each guest makes a small canvas or frame with coordinating colors or stencils for the nursery?
They’ve got parking available (wish I’d noticed before I’d parked a block away), and there are sandwiches, wraps, or Mexican food very close by, making it an easy outing. This is a bit pricey to become a weekly outing for us, but we’ll definitely be coming again.