ENCINITAS – Kids are free to color outside the lines and defy all other principles of self-expression at Art Soup. There is no bad, wrong or incorrect art here. Each project that goes out the door is a masterpiece.
“This is the place of praise and possibility where kids are rewarded for curiosity and encouraged to be imaginative and messy,” explained cofounder Tiffany Golden. “I tell parents to resist the temptation to control the process. Let kids create whatever they want.”
Golden defines the venue as “an art-based social club and drop-in studio free from the confines of Mom’s kitchen.” Cost is $10 for an hour-and-a-half of play for kids ages 2 to 12, which includes art supplies.
“There is glitter and glue galore — with a VW Bug begging for more,” she said.
Also waiting to be decorated is a 10-foot, 3-D fire engine constructed of chalkboard with a flashing red light and a 20,000 brick Lego Castle begging to be finished.
Seventy-five percent of art materials are recycled. A craft bar is stocked with recycled paper towel and toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, plastic lids, wine corks, plastic jugs, yogurt cups, foil pans, hangars, netting and tiles.
The Del Mar Tennis Club donates old tennis balls which, when combined with a toilet roll, and glitter and glue, can be transformed into a jeweled microphone. Sherwin-Williams contributes old wallpaper books.
Sandra Sapol, who owns EmbroidMe next door, happily donates her thread and bobbin spools for the cause. After being an art docent at her sons’ school last year, the emergence of Art Soup hits close to home.
“If people don’t volunteer, there is no art in schools anymore,” she said. “Art Soup provides a place where kids can express themselves and also learn why we don’t throw things away.”
Golden said that when she arrives every morning there are already stacks of recyclables dropped off by parents who support her work — which goes beyond art and developing self-esteem.
“The country is underperforming in science and math,” she said. “There is a correlation with art.”
She blames stressful economic times and overbearing parents with stifling a child’s natural development.
“This is the time when their minds are truly open and unaffected by pressures of the real world,” she said. “I call it ‘lightning in a bottle.’ To some degree they live in the land of ‘no.’ We are shutting them down. We have to find a way to say ‘yes’ and encourage them.”
Golden instructs parents to be “present and proud” while their kids create their personal masterpieces, and to resist the temptation to micromanage.
“Parents always want to pick up the brush and finish up a project or fill in the empty spaces,” she said. “They are actually devaluing the child. The art looks exactly the way the child meant it to look.”
Since opening in mid-February, Golden reports that more than 2,000 customers have walked through the doors of Art Soup, with 75 percent returning three times or more.
“I was here one time,” explained Andrea Padilla. “The same day I signed up for a birthday party. This was a place where I could sit and relax. I wasn’t stressed like at home. The children have so many counselors here.”
Most staff members are child development or child psychology students as well as pre-school, kindergarten and Montessori teachers.
Co-founders Tiffany and Michael Golden grew up in Montessori schools, an educational approach which emphasizes development of a child’s own initiative and natural abilities. Tiffany went on to become a marketing professional for Yahoo and Coca Cola, while Michael enjoys a career in finance and real estate.
At Art Soup, Michael Golden is known as “Chief Mess Master” and Tiffany Golden as “Sparkle Chief.”
“Notice that I’m wearing a white shirt and white shoes,” she said. “It doesn’t matter. It all washes out.”
With the business continuing to grow in popularity, the Goldens have plans to franchise the concept.
Art Soup is located at 191 N. El Camino Real, Suite 203, Encinitas. Their hours are from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For information about camps, themed parties and other events, visit artsoupsd.com or call (760) 230-2060.