SHEBOYGAN — Through traveling to teach art classes and owning several shops before opening Hello Happiness Creativity Center, 1504 New Jersey Ave., Kim Geiser said she has consistently seen that creativity is expensive, like some art classes cost over $100.
“You can’t take a lot of classes if you don’t have money,” said Geiser, founder and executive creative director of Hello Happiness. “… And the people who were going, some had disposable income, but they had to save for a really long time.”
To help create “creativity for all,” Hello Happiness offers lower prices on art supplies in its store and classes in its creative space.
Before opening on New Jersey Avenue in 2020, Hello Happiness was a pop-up shop in downtown Sheboygan from 2016 to 2017. Shortly after it closed, Geiser spent three months working in social services. She said it made her realize how lucky she is.
“How lucky I am to have an unlimited amount of paper at my disposal, or you know, paint brushes or whatever I want all the time,” she said. “And it’s just not the case for a very large percentage of the people who live in our community.”
Usable art supplies, everything from fabric to paint to yarn, can be donated to Hello Happiness, and many cost between a few cents and a few dollars.
“Getting items was certainly more expensive before Hello Happiness opened,” Carrie White, a longtime supporter and customer of Hello Happiness, said in a release. “As one example, they have purchased very high quality art pencils for only 25 cents there that would have cost us over $2 each at other stores.”
White has bought a variety of items such as fabric, wire, charms, stamps, embroidery thread, vintage ornaments and boxes from Hello Happiness’ store since it opened.
“Having these supplies available at low prices has encouraged my daughters to try new crafts and expand their artistic endeavors,” White said in a release.
For those who can’t afford the Hello Happiness prices, there’s also a free art room.
“You’ll never leave here empty-handed,” Geiser said.
Hello Happiness’ model of reselling the majority of donated materials not only makes supplies more accessible at lower prices, but also creates less waste.
“We have about 5,000 transactions a year. … You know, that’s 1,000 pounds of stuff that we’re not putting in the landfill,” Geiser said.
Hello Happiness encourages teenagers and adults to be creative
To make art lessons more affordable, Hello Happiness offers a free teen club on Thursdays and group lessons on Saturdays, many of which range from $25 to $50. Saturday classes are still being explored based on people’s interests and available teachers, Geiser said.
In the past there have been lessons on gel printing, stamp making and making trees from recycled fabric, and future plans could see demonstrations in the modeling shop on how to use certain materials or create different crafts.
Children are welcome in the store and have opportunities for sensory experiences, but Geiser said the classes at Hello Happiness are for teens and adults.
“The connection that you feel when you’re sitting at a table with someone and making art with them is something that we get when we’re in school, when we’re kids, but then as adults we kind of lose that,” Geiser said of group activities.
“And as an adult going through this, it completely changed my life,” she continued. “Doing these retreats and sitting and meeting people and making art with them and getting creative with them, it made me really realize the importance of creativity for adults.”
For Geiser, being creative is more than “just doing something.”
“If you constantly have a creative outlet, it changes your brain,” she said. “It makes you think in different ways. You don’t get stuck because you can solve more problems. You can do all these things more.
Several studies have explored the different effects that spending time exploring expression, whether through creating art or performing arts, can have on improving mental health, cognitive abilities, self-esteem, and levels of civic engagement in adults.
When people bring creativity back into their lives, it will change them for the better, Geiser said.
She remembers one girl who came to buy products for her wedding and ended up coming back the next day.
“I can’t remember exactly what she said, but it was something like, ‘I went home and everything was so colorful, it was like I was dreaming colorfully and I had to come back,'” Geiser said.
Several people have started art journals and other projects because they came to Hello Happiness, Geiser said.
“It’s funny. That’s how I get paid,” she said. “… Money doesn’t mean anything to me. I get paid by people who are pumped to do something.
More information on upcoming events, such as a volunteer information meeting and board of directors from 6-8pm on November 15th and the teen club, can be found at https://www.hellohappinesscreativitycenter.com.
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