In this series, we learn from small businesses across the country how they are adapting in the world of COVID-19.   

Irina Tolmach is a local artist from Sudbury, MA who opened Brush and Easel art studio 3 years ago.  Irina strongly believes that art is for everyone and you can enjoy it being at any skill level.  Brush and Easel originally was open as a sip and paint place with options for family paintings, but very soon it was clear that surrounding communities are interested in having regular kids’ art classes as well.  According to Irina, “we think that adding art classes was one of our best decisions. Kids love it and parents are enjoying their kids’ progress in drawing and painting.”  

Visit Brush and Easel studio to see Irina's offering of art classes for kids of all ages, kids and adults birthday parties, fundraising events, team building events and recently added online classes and online painting workshops. 


What was the first thing you did when you realized this situation was about to affect your business or daily life? 

Honestly, the first thing I did when I realized that this unfamiliar crisis was going to affect both my studio and everyday life was panic. No one knew what was next; the situation was unfolding rapidly and unpredictably.  

At some point, I realized that for the safety of our students and staff, the studio needs to be physically closed. That left me with kids who need to finish their winter semester, with scheduled birthday parties, with planned fun painting workshops and with a spinning head. I knew that we needed to do something. So many kids and adults were coming to our studio to paint and loving it. Kids were stuck at home. They didn’t know when they would be able to go back to school and regularly scheduled activities. They were driving their parents crazy! 


What are you doing now that you weren't doing two weeks ago? 

After giving it some thought, I decided to try online classes to finish the semester with my regular students. I had never done it before, and I never thought that I would. It worked! It was not easy at first. There was a steep learning curve, but it really worked. I mentioned the idea of online classes to my wonderful staff. Laura, who is a great artist, does a lot of drawing and watercolors. She was excited and willing to try. I heard from our parents that her first online class was a huge success!  


What challenges are you concerned about in the weeks ahead? 

Abby, our program coordinator, was very enthusiastic, creative and overloaded with work. I joke that she has to do more from home working in our virtual studio than in the real one. There are a lot of logistics involved in keeping our kids doing what they love. I realized that even though we prepare for each class, we still need to modify as we go. We don’t want to put any pressure on kids or parents to leave their homes, so we use materials that the kids already have. Sometimes this means that one child will be painting while another one is using colored pencils. It’s challenging that we cannot provide a class description or list of supplies. It’s hard that we cannot always see what the kids are drawing all the time. I constantly have to check in on them and we are all learning as we go. But, each class gets better and better. We all get more comfortable with this new approach.  


How are you taking care of your customers and employees? 

We send regular emails to our customers and post on social media to let everyone know what we are doing and our weekly schedule. As always, my employees are my top priority. Everyone is working from home and doing their very best trying to keep Brush and Easel afloat. I am so grateful to all the parents who are signing their kids up for our online class and for those who did not cancel their kids' birthday parties and just rescheduling them.  


What opportunities do you see coming out of this situation? 

We will keep working hard to develop this new type of education and adding new content to the program like lectures about art history or about different artists for all ages. Unexpectedly, I've realized that I want to keep online classes available as a great option going forward. 


Visit Brush and Easel studio to see Irina's offering of art classes for kids of all ages, kids and adults birthday parties, fundraising events, team building events and recently added online classes and online painting workshops.