Nonprofit organization offers free open-air painting sessions

Caption! (Thomas Hawthorne/DD)
The Bergamot Institute hosts free open-air painting sessions in the "What Should Go Here?" pop-up park on Second and Roosevelt streets on Sunday afternoons. The lessons are open to people of all ages.
(Thomas Hawthorne/DD)

Paint drips down makeshift mat board canvasses to dry into abstract artworks. It’s winter, but the weather couldn’t be better for painting in the park.

This is the scene of The Bergamot Institute’s open-air painting sessions. Every Sunday, unless the weather is unbearable, the institute will host painting lessons at the “What Should Go Here?” lot on the corner of Second and Roosevelt streets that are free to the public.

“We came up with the idea of having an open-air art program because in springtime the weather here is amazing,” said Shannon Youso, who co-founded The Bergamot Institute. “It’s just a really open environment for people to come and participate in the arts without having to be in a structured, disciplined environment.”

The Bergamot Institute is a nonprofit organization, and its new art program provides people of all ages with the space and art supplies needed to create artwork. The organization receives most of the supplies for the sessions as donations from The Art Resource Center, located in Tempe, as well as from local artists.

“This is a great opportunity to come out and meet other artists and to do things they’ve never done before,” said Denise Fleisch, the owner of the Lotus Contemporary Art gallery and yoga studio.

This past Sunday, Fleisch led a group of children and their parents in an art session geared toward the abstract, a specialty of hers. She began the lesson with a mini yoga session as Youso and her brother and co-founder of Bergamot, Dustin Youso, prepared supplies.

Caption! (Thomas Hawthorne/DD)
Sunday’s art lesson, which dealt with abstract art, was taught by Denise Fleisch of Lotus Contemporary gallery and yoga studio. The lesson began with a mini yoga session. (Thomas Hawthorne/DD)
“It’s getting these young people interested in art and it will stay with them the rest of their lives,” Fleisch said.

At this particular class, the majority of the artists were children under 12 years old. However, the institute plans on organizing more events for adults and teenagers.

“I love the community aspect,” said Rachel Nieman, whose four children were painting in the session.

Nieman, who drove from Apache Junction to participate, discovered the event after a family photo shoot downtown. She said it was hard to find opportunities like the open-air park in the Valley.

Shannon and Dustin, both artists, said that The Bergamot Institute is working toward a larger movement in what they call the underground Phoenix art scene. They plan for the institute to have a building location in the future.

“I don’t think the art scene in downtown Phoenix is given enough credit, but maybe that’s a good thing,” Shannon Youso said. “It sort of keeps it this little unit.”

The painting sessions will be held every Sunday at 2:00 p.m. at the pop-up park on the corner of 2nd and Roosevelt streets, next to MonOrchid.

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Clarification: Feb. 18, 2013

This article has been updated to include the name of the pop-up park project, “What Should Go Here?”