by Kelly Pollock, feature writer for The Buzz Cafe
Lindsey Danhauser and Allison Durkee became friends in the seventh grade in Iowa City. Although they went in different directions after high school—Lindsey studied art and Allison studied business at separate colleges—they stayed close and recently opened their second Kidcreate Studio franchise together. The new space at 200 Harrison Street in the Oak Park Arts District celebrated its socially-distanced grand opening on September 12.
They decided to become business owners a few years ago when Lindsey and her husband moved from Minnesota to be closer to family. Chicago seemed like a good compromise between western Michigan and eastern Iowa and it was an extra bonus that Allison had already lived here for several years. At the time, Allison was looking for an opportunity to start her own business and opening a Kidcreate Studio franchise together seemed like a natural fit for their complementary skills of corporate finance and arts administration. “I had partnered with the founder of Kidcreate when I worked for the City of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and her curriculum and vision aligned with what I was passionate about. It’s based around art history and art technique but is packaged in a way that’s palatable to everyone,” says Lindsey.
Lindsey and Allison’s first Kidcreate Studio location opened in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago in March 2019 and they were ready to open their second location in Oak Park in March 2020. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic struck at the same time and they were forced to delay their opening for six months. When Illinois entered Phase 4, they were able to reopen the Lakeview location and after a successful summer camp realized that they could proceed with opening the Oak Park location. “We already had the ball rolling so we had to keep going.” They are careful about their safety protocols: class sizes are small, everyone wears a mask, and hands are washed frequently.
While Allison manages the Lakeview studio, Lindsey is the face of the Oak Park location. She teaches about half the classes herself but has other teachers and assistants on staff. Toddler classes (18 months-6 years) run for 45 minutes and require an adult to attend with the child. Older children (5-12 years) attend after school for two hours and can be dropped off. “One of the reasons that we liked this space was because it was in a parent-friendly area. While fostering creativity in kids is our main mission, we want to support parents too. So while your kids are in class you can grab a coffee or do some shopping nearby,” says Lindsey.
If families don’t want to make a regular commitment, no-school-day classes, holiday workshops, and date nights offer plenty of drop-in opportunities to add some art into their lives. “Date nights are from 5:30-8:30 and cost $37 with a 50 percent discount for each additional child. Parents get a break and kids get a chance to be social and creative which is so important right now while they are spending so much time remote learning.”
While the classes are designed to teach art techniques, every class also has fun creative elements. “During class, the kids practice their active listening skills, but at the end of class we have messy time when they can let it all go. We might do fingerpainting on the tables or make slime. The creativity really has a chance to sink in.”
Lindsey is passionate about the role that creativity should play in kids’ lives. “I believe that if kids don’t practice creativity, then they can’t come up with new ideas. Whether it is dramatic play or music or visual arts, creativity is the job skill of the future. It’s all about problem solving: how do you get something to look the way that you want with the tools that you have?”
In addition to classes, the studio also offers birthday parties, summer camps, mobile classes, and has a small retail section. “I’d like to grow the retail space,” says Lindsey, “I’m looking for more locally-made kid-focused products.”
To kickstart the holiday season, the studio is having a gift card sale in November and December when gift cards are 20 percent off. Kidcreate Studio is located at 200 Harrison Street and can be reached by phone at 708-628-3976 or via their website at www.kidcreate.com/oak-park.