Between vibrantly brushed paint strokes to shakes of shimmering glitter, there are endless ways for kids to embrace their inner artists and to be creative. Now, thanks to a Fox Valley mom, families can stay busy all year and pick up free art projects from an adorable curbside studio.
Creating a Masterpiece
Mom of one and artist Angela Dayton has always admired the Little Free Libraries scattered around the local community. They sparked an idea to create a compact, neighborhood art studio filled with free craft supplies.
The Little Chestnut Art Studio was launched in April 2020 by Angela, with the help of her ten-year-old daughter, Molly. The studio is now housed in a 9-foot, colorfully-upcycled grandfather clock, features a children’s library on the bottom, art supplies in the middle, and a gallery up top.
“I wanted to inspire kids and families to be creative and try something new,” said Dayton. After a conversation with a friend, Dayton recognized the importance of finding a hobby during the pandemic and sought to shift the focus to joy by engaging a child’s imagination. “The main thought was that art can be a great distraction,” said Dayton, “and very calming!”
The solar-powered studio is brimming with supplies like sidewalk chalk, coloring books, crayons, blank flipbooks, paint, and canvas. Families can follow the art studio on Facebook, discover a multitude of craft ideas, and do the month’s project. “We wanted to share projects that we liked,” said Dayton, “I come from a creative and crafty family, and sometimes you just have to try a few before you find what you love.” Some of the studio’s most popular projects include Shrinky Dink art, painting, and journaling with clickable, multi-colored pens.
Stocking the Studio
In the beginning, the little studio would simply get refilled by Dayton and her family. Soon, the idea took off and evolved to include donations from others. “As we got supplies donated and came up with kits made with supplies people dropped off — it just kept growing,” explained Dayton. “When it started, I had no idea how many supporters we would have.”
Families and passersby quickly began to notice the quirky supply stop, and many stepped in to help. “Within a week of it being up, I went out to check on it and found our first donation,” said Dayton. Dayton discovered that a local teacher had generously donated her leftover classroom supplies, and another donor had cleaned out their craft room and brought over a large donation.
Donors, lovingly referred to as “Art Fairies,” are crucial for the studio’s success. “Keeping it stocked with something for any age is the goal,” said Dayton. Those looking to contribute can do so by dropping off kids’ books, adding supplies to the donation box, or supporting the artistic library through direct product donations from their Amazon Wishlist.
A Colorful Lesson
Dayton believes the desire to supply children with a free way to enjoy art and express themselves is a trait that stems back to her childhood. “I was in 4H for fourteen years, and community service was a cornerstone of my upbringing,” said Dayton. “This is our little hug back to Neenah, the city we have loved since we moved here four years ago.”
Stopping by the studio isn’t only about the colored pencils, paper, or stickers. It’s also about celebrating the act of kindness and neighborly connection.
“Sometimes you have to be the change and make the difference in your community,” explained Dayton.
Even more, she hopes that along with trying new projects and being intellectually engaged, little artists learn to give back to their community, too. “It’s important to give, not only take,” said Dayton, “a community needs that balance.”
The Little Chestnut Art Studio is a wonderful addition to the area and is a treasure that can help children find inspiration, be hands-on, and learn. Not only is it available around the clock, throughout the year, during rain or shine, but it comes with a sharp dual lesson that stretches beyond a speckled canvas – gratitude.
“Now, my hope is also that the art studio serves as a friendly reminder to be kind, and do what you love,” said Dayton, “life’s too short not to have something you’re passionate about.”
- The Little Chestnut Art Studio, 590 Chestnut Street, Neenah
Have you picked up a project from the Little Chestnut Art Studio? Share a photo of your amazing creation with us at #GoValleyKids