Located inside a former real estate office and next door to the L'Estralla Taco Truck, The Art Grist cuts an unimposing figure on York Boulevard.
Inside, the softly lit space seems almost as much like a preschool classroom as it does a gallery space for trained artists. That's partly because of Zen, the 10-year-old greyhound who greets visitors at the door.
It's the sort of place that curious passersby might feel invited to step in and admire the works of art hanging on the wall -- and that's exactly how owners Heather Newlin and Kristin Gunnarson like it.
"We're hoping to become an art community where people of all backgrounds and ages can come together to be creative," Newlin, a Highland Park resident said. "We want people to explore different types of expressions. So, we're not painting heavy or a sculpture heavy or anything like that."
Newlin and Gunnarson, who lives in Eagle Rock, met several years ago while teaching at Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts. Gunnarson has a painting degree and a background in Fashion Design, Newlin is a painter and interior designer with a degree in art history. Both enjoyed teaching, and were hoping to start doing so on their own terms. That's how the Art Grist was born.
Since opening in November, the Art Grist has hosted camps for youngsters and craft classes for community members of all ages and skill levels.
"That's kind of our speciality, Gunnarson said. "We're used to working with kids. Did summer camp in Griffith Park for four summers."
Later this month, Gunnarson and Newlin are hoping to reach out to an even broader cross-section of the neighborhood. On Sunday, Jan. 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Newlin and Gunnarson will host a pay-what-you-wish party/fundraiser. Attendees will be greeted with brushes, paint and other artistic implements and asked to paint on a canvas that will be installed on the Art Grist's inside walls.
The tentative theme for the event is "What do you Love About Highland Park."
Gunnarson and Newlin said that, while many artistic spaces made passing nods to the notion of community engagement, they're making that effort the core mission of the Art Grist.
"We like the idea of a mix of people. I think a really talented artist can learn a lot from a five-year-old. There's a lot to be said from getting the rawness from someobdy who hasn't traiend for many years," Newlin said. "And at the same time, the 5-year-old can get something from the well trained artist."