By Kelly Pollock, feature writer for Buzz Cafe
Cheryl Vargas, the self-proclaimed Creative in Chief at Studio 928, is on a one-woman mission to give everyone permission to take “Time for Art.” Her new studio at 911 S. Lombard Avenue in the Oak Park Arts District will celebrate its grand opening in March and will give budding artists plenty of opportunities to nurture their creative side.
While Cheryl has created art her whole life, she never believed that she could be an artist because “artists don’t make any money and nobody takes them seriously.” It wasn’t until she was enrolled in the graphic arts program at Concordia University and her professor BettyAnn Mocek said to her, “Cheryl, you’re an artist,” that she finally believed in her abilities. “She told me that,” says Cheryl, “and all these things from my past started flashing before my eyes. I suddenly realized she was right!”
While she was in school, Cheryl attended the annual Self Employment in the Arts Conference and learned about “paint and sip parties” for the first time. Immediately, she knew that it was the right business idea for her. After graduating in May 2018, she started pricing supplies and putting together her social media marketing strategy. Her first party was at Bfit Fitness in Oak Park just a month later.
Soon after that, she reached out to Jim Cozzens at Hamburger Mary’s and he hosted her and her parties for almost two years until she decided that “it was time to keep my eyes and ears open to the possibility of opening my own space.” Cheryl ultimately decided to work with a commercial realtor who found the available location on Lombard. “When I walked in the door, I knew it was the space I wanted. I’ve been envisioning a brick wall for two years. The Bitmoji on my website shows me standing in front of one—so the brick wall in the space sold it for me.”
Giving herself and others a permanent place to make time for art is what most excites Cheryl about transitioning from being a mobile artist to one with studio space. “One of my biggest frustrations as an artist is making time for art. If I, as an artist, can’t find time, then imagine everybody else who can’t find time. Art is so important because it nurtures your soul. It’s soul food.”
The new studio will offer lots of options for people seeking a creative outlet. Drop-in painting will be available for $25 for a two-hour session and will include all materials—a canvas, paint, and a brush. When the weather is nice, “painting alfresco” will be available in the garden behind the building. Memberships will also be available for $75 and will include four sessions per month. If someone doesn’t use all their sessions, then they can donate the unused sessions back to the studio, and Cheryl will make them available for teenagers to use free of charge.
For people who can’t stay to paint, “painting to go kits” will be available. These will include materials as well as an image to paint and access to an online video with instruction from Cheryl. And of course, Cheryl will continue to offer the “paint and sip parties” that started it all. Private parties costs $40 per person and require a minimum of fifteen people. All materials are included and BYOB is allowed as long as the event is not open to the public.
The grand opening celebration on March 14 will kick off at 7:00 am with a free creative jazz abstract class for the first 35 people. A ribbon cutting, gift certificates, and drop-in painting memberships for a special introductory price of $40 will round out the event.
Surrounded by her family, Cheryl held a blessing for her new venture shortly after signing the lease. Led by her cousin DaJuan Fondren who is a pastor in Indiana, the group prayed that Cheryl’s hopes for her studio would be realized. “I want this to be a place where people can give themselves permission to take time for art. A place where people feel comfortable and where there is a sense of community.”
Cheryl Vargas and Studio 928 can be found at 911 S. Lombard Avenue where everyone is encouraged to take “Time for Art.” She can be reached at 312-371-9526 or through her website at www.studio928.net.