Editor’s note: Bohemia is not offering classes or workshops in March and April, due to the coronavirus. All assisted living facilities are closed to the public by mandate of the state, so those classes are also on hold. Bohemia is, however, currently working on online projects and also fun, quick art quotes and prompts on social media.
This is not any average sip-and-paint studio.
Here, you might build a shrine. Create your own “inner monster.” Rip the pages out of a book and paint all over it. That’s the altered book club workshop.
The unique Boulder studio is a bit contemplative, yet also fun and social, says Abby Sivy. She co-opened Bohemia Boulder three years ago in North Boulder at 4919 Broadway.
“People are excited, and it’s not just the projects,” she says. “The studio is very funky and a little bit chaotic, but not —”
Cindy Parker interrupts her with a laugh. “It’s chaotic,” says Parker, who opened Bohemia alongside Sivy.
Sivy agrees. “OK, yeah, it’s chaotic,” she says. “I do believe it’s our personalities and what we offer, not just about the projects.”
Parker continues, “And how we encourage people to let go of their inhibitions.”
She likens it to an interpretive dance class. You’re not trying to paint a “really good apple that looks just like an apple,” she says. It’s about exploration and self-expression. And it’s “extremely freeing,” she says.
Sivy and Parker met when Parker was the activities director at The Academy Senior Living. She hired Sivy to run an art program there, and they immediately clicked. They started talking about their shared dream of opening an artistic haven.
“We wanted a place to help people be creative, especially people who aren’t necessarily artists and are maybe even a little afraid of being creative — helping them find their creative soul,” Sivy says.
A judgment-free zone, no experience necessary.
She and Parker put together some ideas, and within a month looked at a studio and picked the first place they found. They set Bohemia into motion before even having a complete plan and completely overhauled the space.
“It’s become this magical place that people don’t want to leave,” Sivy says. “Everyone who walks in just wants to live here.”
Bohemia will celebrate its third birthday with live music on April 1 as part of the NoBo First Friday Art Walk.
You wouldn’t believe the weird stuff you will find inside Bohemia, Parker says. The found-objects table is brimming with pods, seeds, petals, feathers, old books, odd objects from flea markets.
“If you want something, ask us. I bet we have it,” Parker says. “One time, someone said, ‘I wish I had one butterfly wing.’ I had one right there.”
Parker grew up in France and moved around a lot. All her life, she says she’s been a collector of unusual things that are beautiful or amusing to look at, from the rusty to the lacy, from broken chairs to nests and leaves and stones.
These may be just some of the things you can play with and transform at Bohemia.
The studio offers workshops, private parties, art retreats (the next one is in Paris) and corporate team-building.
Another program through Bohemia is called Purple Art, although it’s not typically held in the studio. They bring the program to different senior facilities in town. Purple Art features hands-on, creative projects based on the belief that everybody is an artist and that making art can be healing. The idea came, in part, through Parker’s work in various retirement communities for 15 years.
“I found that people with memory loss had less inhibition,” Parker says. “They would just go for it, and they made some cool things.”
At the beginning, some participants were unsure. They said they couldn’t paint or were not an artist.
“A year and a half later, you should see the stuff these people do,” Parker says. “It’s not just a mountain or flowers. It’s expressive painting: what you feel.”
Purple Art honors participants through an artist-of-the-month award.
One day at Bella Vista Memory Care, a blind woman came to the art class. Parker poured paint onto a piece of paper and placed her hand in it. She began moving it around and her face lit up, Parker says.
Sivy believes everyone is born creative.
“A lot of times, people lose that. They forget along the way. Or some teacher told them they’re not good,” she says. “Time and time again, we’ve both seen how incredibly profound it can be for someone to let themselves go and find that creativity by just moving paint around a canvas.”
Purple Art aims to reduce loneliness and isolation among people as they age; to build community and meaningful connection; and to simply bring more fun.
Sivy thinks on one 85-year-old man who had never painted before; when he was a kid, his art teacher told him his rendition of a deer was terrible and he never tried again. He requested one-on-one lessons every other week and soon developed his skill and passion so much that he held an art opening in his apartment, complete with refreshments.
“It shifted his way of thinking and being,” Sivy says.
Another one of Sivy’s passion projects is called Art Spa for Women, a creative night for women that includes food and wine.
“I love to encourage and empower women who otherwise would never think to create based on their fear. I strive to help them find that child-like ease while doing art,” she says.
They also offer healing through expressive arts for people grieving; a class on making mala necklaces; and unique workshops, like a two-week mask-making class. Masks are made with plaster and decorated with found objects.
“Bohemia is not just a studio,” Sivy says. “It’s about us and our personalities and what we bring out of people. It’s more than just a studio.”