Social artworking at Brushes & Brews

Barbara Carlson
Barbara Carlson
Photos: Christian Laffey

By Mary Lu Laffey

Celebration is important to Barbara Carlson. The native Michigander and former engineer fought a battle with cancer and came out swinging a paintbrush.

Painting, she discovered, provided both stress release and the emotional support she needed during recovery. It remains an outlet she celebrates through social painting at the Armory Art Center. The center is located in the historic, Armory building in the heart of downtown Grand Haven.

Called “Brushes & Brews,” her classes start on the first floor of the renovated 110-year-old building with stops at either Grand Armory Brewing or Aldea Coffee, where students pick up their “brew” of choice.

Brushes & Brews
Draw one at Brushes & Brews

“The ‘brushes’ part is conducted up here,” Carlson said, looking around at long tables lined up on the second-floor loft. Each is set with oversized placemats and tabletop easels. She leads most of the programs, arranging others to be conducted by guest artists.

Most of her classes are scheduled events and open to the public. “I have some students that attend regularly as a monthly night out,” she said. Carlson also hosts private painting events for social occasions, like bridal showers or birthday parties.

Carlson leads the class through steps to create one of the sample subjects she has prepared. A wall in the studio displays her colorful work. “We have more than 10 and add more all the time,” she said.

“There are a few favorites,” she said of the display. The “Girl with the Umbrella” and a “Strand of Birch Trees” stand out for groups; a diptych of a heart carved on a tree is popular with wedding parties.

Other classes at the Armory Art Center range from papier-mache to intuitive collage; all are appropriate for any level of art experience.

“The key is to rest your mind and let your heart do the talking when piecing together a unique piece of art that has meaning and power for you,” Carlson said. n

Brushes & Brews
Armory Art Center
17 S. Second St.
Grand Haven