Creativity is a facet of humanity that can be expressed in a multitude of venues. Some people make music, others make sculptures; Rebecca Schweiger, founder and director of The Art Studio NY, found her creative spark through painting and instilling the idea that everyone has an artist within themselves waiting to be found.
The Art Studio found its humble beginnings in Schweiger's Upper West Side apartment. Because of the popularity of her free-spirited lessons for all ages and levels, she was able to nurture her vision into a nationally acclaimed program.
Schweiger now teaches out of the basement of the same building, at 145 W. 96th St., in two large studios where she and her staff hold about 60 classes a week.
Originally trained as a painter, Schweiger studied at Boston University, where she was instructed in classical styles of painting. After college, she became an exhibited painter and her work was featured in galleries across the world.
While she enjoyed her work, she felt that the happiness art gave her could help other people.
"I felt that the joy and the meaning that I derived out of painting was one that I really wanted to share with every type of person," Schweiger said.
She soon found herself instructing an art class at a senior citizens' home, where the focus of the class was tapping into one's creativity and self-expression.
"It literally was miraculous, within an hour and a half, how much these people changed," she said. "The class had them smiling and laughing. I thought that there was something way deeper going on."
The classes blossomed into the idea that art is an "elixir to life." Schweiger thought she could teach people to begin "tapping into their own self-expression, their own essence and their own unique spirit."
After working in Israel for a year teaching similar classes, Schweiger moved to New York City in 2000. In 2003, she opened The Art Studio NY.
What started as two classes of five students being taught in her bedroom, which she converted into an art studio, quickly grew into a business that has a staff of 15 artists, instructors, graphic designers and administrators.
The studio's central focus is always to release stress through self-expression. Beyond that, Schweiger has made sure there is a class available for all skill levels.
"We are always adding new classes based on what our students' interests are," said Schweiger. "If two students say, 'I wish you had a calligraphy class,' we will add it."
She will soon offer a class with a mix of meditation, yoga and art.
There are also a multitude of traditional classes for young children in the afternoon after school, as well as adult classes for those who wish to unwind after work.
Classes are generally between 10 and 11 people. While the size of the classes remains constant, the length of time varies for each. Some classes will go for several weeks and others will go week-to-week. An example of this is a four-week program where students will learn to make a painting from scratch-literally. Schweiger will lead students through the process of creating a canvas and the intricacies of painting upon the canvas they created.
The Art Studio NY has traveled a long road to get to where it is today, but its ride is filled with interesting stories and occurrences, including when E!'s "Kim and Kourtney Take New York" came to Schweiger's studio for an episode to get their paint on.
The studio now offers classes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in Central Park. Students even have the chance to go abroad on retreat trips, visiting places such as Italy and Costa Rica.
Schweiger likes to think of her method as "almost like giving people their wings to fly."