To the neighbors, it would appear to be just another home on the block, but to those who venture inside, it’s a place where imagination inspires creative, quirky, and often messy endeavors.
Imagine Art Studio, tucked along a residential street in LaGrange Park, is home to artist and teacher Rachel Weaver Rivera. Here, students go beyond the standard art and craft projects and have the opportunity to use a variety of mediums and develop critical, creative thinking.
“It’s so important for students to have the tools to be creative,” Weaver Rivera said.
With the studio walls lined with her own creations, creativity is both inspired, and accessible, thanks to well-stocked shelves filled with materials waiting to be discovered. Trays of paints and baskets of crayons are packed next to glue, blocks of wood, nails, marbles, a box of scrap paper and other odds and ends.
“I don’t have a table of materials, I have a buffet of materials,” she said with a laugh running her hands along the rows of materials.
The studio is the fitting spot for the artist with a passion for teaching. During the school year she guides students at Union Church of Hinsdale’s preschool program. During school breaks, weekends and summers she’s busy at work in her home art studio, and leading children’s art programs “on the road” at local libraries, a variety of classes from building their own games to clothing design. Her classes fill quickly, as parents like Joni Ptasnik of La Grange Park seek creative outlets for their children.
"After taking art classes at Imagine Art Studio, I saw such growth in my daughter's creativity,” Ptasnik said. “I think the most important thing that she learned is that she can create and think outside the box.”
Ptasnik said with so many other activities, including sports, it’s easy for parents to overlook the arts and music. With Rivera’s studio right in the neighborhood, Ptasnik said they find time for both art and sports.
A Hinsdale native, Weaver Rivera’s passion is teaching art and her philosophy is steeped in the Reggio Emilia approach, an Italian style that encourages students to take ownership in their own learning. It emphasizes collaboration, creativity and the importance of a student’s environment on the learning process.
“It’s a really powerful way of looking at the potential of every child, not just the needs,” she said.
When her art studio is in use, Weaver Rivera said it gets loud, as music plays and students chat, sharing ideas, asking questions and encouraging one another.
“It’s a hub where ideas are born,” she said.
In addition to her love of working with children, Rivera spends time with educators, helping them develop ways to embrace art in the classroom. With teachers under pressure to help students perform and test well, Weaver Rivera sees the ever-growing need for art education.
“Teachers don’t have time for something extra,” she said. “It’s about using the materials in the classroom and making art a part of the lesson, not an addition to learning."
Weaver Rivera said art gives children a chance to express their voices, go beyond answers that are simply right and wrong. Art is an outlet, she said, a way to work on problem solving and develop critical thinking skills. Students in her class design and build while working with a variety of tools and mediums.
“Creativity is the ability to solve problems, to find solutions that never have been thought of before,” she said.
Learn more, find a full listing of classes or how to organize a private party or educational seminar at www.imagineartstudio.com/