Go Ahead… Get Creative!

By Kerri Creel

The results of a magical art camp: unicorn, wand, and gnome home (Photo by Kerri Creel).

Sometimes the sunset is so pretty at the lake that I say, “If I were a painter, I’d paint that!” On that thought, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that many of us, including me, are not natural artists. The good news is that with a great instructor, it doesn’t matter if we are “born” artistic!

In fact, with a good instructor, you and I can paint most anything we desire, and I know just the place to find a teacher who will help us find our inner artist. Hope Suzuki, elementary art teacher turned entrepreneur, has created a business that caters to the creativity and imagination of all ages. Get Creative! (Hope’s new local business) is a place to explore and express our artistic side and to create our own works of art.


Hope Suzuki, owner of Get Creative!, shares her love of teaching and art with the local community (Submitted photo)

As the owner, instructor, and artist, Hope opened her art studio in the summer of 2017 with the intent to provide the community a way to learn varying artistic media in a fun, casual, unique setting with individualized attention. Located at 246 Jouett School Road in Mineral, Get Creative! is more than a place to just hold paint parties.


Jayne Sharpe joyfully shows her freshly painted penguin (Submitted photo).

In addition to the trendy “sip and paint,” Hope expands upon the idea with artistic offerings including workshops, classes, after-school and summer camps, Art Club, private lessons, birthday parties, and mobile paint event services for churches or employee team-building. Patrons can choose from canvas painting, oil pastels, watercolor, sculpture, mosaics, and more.

My daughter and I experienced Hope’s classes first-hand this past summer. Through a mutual friend, my idea of having a flip-flop painting class was given to Hope. She offered multiple dates for the beachy-themed event, and so I showed up with my non-artistic-self, a good attitude, and a plateful of flip-flop cookies. Arriving at her quaint little farmhouse studio in the field, I wondered how the Get Creative! paint party would differ from the others I had participated in the past.

I was surprised and pleased by several things. First, she had already offered the ability to pre-pay for an early bird discount, so my wallet was appreciative. Second, it was a small, intimate class which made it easier to get one-on-one guidance while painting. Third, Hope added some personal touches such as providing light refreshments and giving out theme-related prizes throughout the evening – I won a flip-flop wreath! Fourth, she is very open to suggestions for future events, themes, and parties. Fifth, she asks for (and accepts) constructive feedback.


Easter eggs dyed with a silk technique (Submitted photo).

As I left that evening with my flip-flop “masterpiece,” I felt like I had not only had fun creating artwork and winning a prize, but that I had made a new friend who appreciated my ideas, taught me something new, and encouraged my creativity.


Kerri Creel, author of this article, displays her flip-flop “masterpiece” (Submitted photo).

My daughter’s experience was equally as enjoyable. Four consecutive mornings, Hope opened her summer screen doors to junior artists, ages 6-12, for Camp Imagination. The kids painted a unicorn on canvas, concocted some fizzy potions and slime, created a monster collage, made a magic wand, drew a dragon, and constructed a mushroom-shaped gnome home out of terra cotta pots, moss, and rocks.

On the final morning, the kids set up a gallery to show their families all of their special creations. Again, Hope had added personal touches in addition to the art projects, and she provided campers with snacks and outdoor games as a mid-morning break.

The studio is situated just across the country road from Jouett Elementary School where Hope taught art for 18 years. Being so close to the school, students can take advantage of her after-school workshops. The after-school program is an extension of art education using a variety of materials to complete multimedia art projects while learning about up and coming artists.

Her newest offering for children (grades K-6) is the “Creative Kidz” Art Club. Held monthly on designated Sunday afternoons, children attending these two-hour classes will participate in a condensed version of the after-school program.

A client, Colleen Moore, heard rave reviews about Hope’s parties and decided to combine with a friend (another mom) to hold a double children’s birthday party at the Get Creative! studio. With both of the children having Christmas birthdays and both mothers being teachers, it was a very busy month to plan a party, so the two ladies were very appreciative of Hope’s organization and attention to detail.

Hope Suzuki (right) poses with her friend Lois Loy (Submitted photo).

“It was incredibly easy,” Colleen recalled. “Communication was fantastic, and everything was laid out. Hope took care of all the little details that made it less stressful for the moms and also fun for the kids.”

The children were painting with great abandon that day, and Colleen resisted the urge to step in and tell them where the reindeer noses really should be painted. Instead, she followed Hope’s lead of letting them be creatively artistic. Mrs. Suzuki gave the children an example and descriptive, step-by-step instructions, but she still welcomed their free-flowing, individual, artistic expression.


Cleo Billingsley and her granddaughter Nadiya Jackson discover a shared passion for painting (Submitted photo).

“Hope would encouragingly say, ‘Oh that’s beautiful!’ where I would have to bite my tongue and walk away,” Colleen quipped. “She is so good with the kids. This is her forte; her calling.”

Get Creative! is not just for children, however. Hope’s customers have ranged from six years old to over 90. “Having been an elementary school art teacher for 18 years, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about teaching adults,” Hope explained. “However, I realized there was a need for adult classes, so I stepped out of my comfort zone to expand. I have come to find that I love the interaction with adults.”

Cleo Billingsley was quickly converted to painting when church friends invited her to participate in her very first paint party at Get Creative! Since then, Cleo has become a repeat customer of at least four classes, and she even paints at home. “I am totally enjoying it,” Cleo reflected. “Hope not only instructs, but also encourages the painters to do their own thing and make the painting their own.”


Double the fun as Colleen Moore’s son teams up with a friend for a joint birthday celebration (Submitted photo).

Cleo’s granddaughter is also interested in painting after attending a Get Creative! intergenerational paint event with her grandmother. “To the Moon & Back” consisted of an adult (parent or grandparent) painting a half-scene on one canvas and the child painting the other half-scene on another canvas. Now, Cleo is eager to fine-tune some of her newly-acquired painting skills in hopes of showcasing her work in a local gallery. “Hope turned me onto painting,” she said.

Another repeat customer is Tanya Olinger who has attended Get Creative! classes on multiple occasions, including an Easter-themed event in which Hope taught an egg-dying technique using silk. As their eggs were setting, the participants enjoyed a bit of whimsy by searching for Easter eggs filled with candy and Get Creative! coupons.“It’s almost like yoga for the soul,” Tanya commented. “Regular yoga entails stretching the body, calming the mind, and reflection. With this, I find myself completely absorbed and calm. I can let my worries go and make something beautiful.

“With the music playing in the background, gentle chatter, laughing, and good things to eat, there’s a multitude of things to look forward to,” Tanya continued. “Hope is very guiding and encouraging, but she also gives you the freedom to express yourself.”


Tanya Olinger enjoys an evening of painting, relaxing, and laughing (Submitted photo).

No matter the age or the artistic level, seniors, stay-at-home parents, children, and church members can all appreciate a place to enjoy, create, and be social. “One woman in her 90s had never taken a paint class in her life,” Hope reflected. “She came, loved it, and keeps coming back for more. The senior community seems thirsty for a creative outlet.”

Along with Hope’s experience as a beloved elementary art teacher for nearly two decades, she has a BFA in art education from Longwood University and a Master of Interdisciplinary Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University. She draws upon both her education and experience, but also continues to learn and grow in her field.

“I learn new art techniques continually and gather fresh ideas by taking workshops, creating on my own, and networking with other art educators and artists,” Hope explained. She intends to keep expanding and adapting to her clients’ needs and interests and, like a true entrepreneur, is always thinking of the future. Some of her potential ideas include inviting guest artists to teach classes on different projects such as crochet or jewelry making.

Hope went on to summarize the goal of her endeavors. “It’s about making a memory and having fun with a friend or loved one while learning something new,” she said.

Attending an event with Get Creative! is social, educational, memorable, and engaging. And who knows? You may just find out that you have a flare for art and develop a new hobby! Or, if you are like me, you just have a whole lot of fun trying!

My next suggestion for Hope is to help me paint that beautiful sunset on the lake. Care to join me?

            If you would like to make memories, take up an artistic hobby, learn something new, provide a learning experience for your children/grandchildren, or just enjoy a creative, fun, and relaxing night with friends, contact Hope Suzuki by following her Facebook page (GET CREATIVE!), emailing her at getcre8tivrva@gmail.com, or visiting her website at www.getcre8tiv.com.