Four years ago, Elyse Gerson’s 5-year-old daughter came home from summer camp with a supposed art project: a painted egg carton.
"There were no real learning skills," Gerson said of the project, adding that it is often the same in schools. "It winds up being a very canned art experience [where] kids come home with something that looks exactly the same."
Since that day, Gerson has wanted to open a true art studio for children, and recently quit her job in a nonprofit organization to do just that. Art Safari opens Sept. 18 on Laurel Street with a cadre of professional artists, art teachers and art therapists who will work with children ages 2 through 14.
The only studio of its kind in San Carlos, Art Safari will offer classes, an open studio, special events on Saturday nights and a small art-supply store. Gerson will donate 10 percent of the store’s proceeds to the San Carlos Education Foundation, which raises money for arts, music, physical education and literacy programs in the San Carlos School District, according to Seth Rosenblatt, vice president of corporate relations for the foundation.
One of Art Safari’s teachers, Cheryl Selman, sees art as a way for children to develop creativity and build self-esteem. She formerly worked as an art therapist with severely emotionally disturbed children.
"Kids can put things down on paper that they can’t verbally, in part because they don’t have the same capacity for words that we do," Selman said. She wants to create a studio space where "there isn’t a correct outcome — everything is a correct outcome."
Studies have shown that children who are exposed to art education perform better in math, reading and science, Gerson said.
Art Safari, located close to downtown San Carlos, also provides aplace where parents can drop kids off before heading to work or other activities. This fall, classes will be open to kids ages 2 to 12, while winter sessions will focus on middle-school kids, who don’t currently receive art instruction in the schools, according to Gerson.