Whether you want to learn how to paint, desire a space to launch a special event or simply need a spot where you can do art without messing up your house, South Avenue Arts has something to offer every level of artist. Studio owner Sharon Reed grew up drawing and painting as the daughter of an art teacher, but she graduated from Rutgers with an MBA and pursued a career in business before going back to school to study a creative field at the New York School of Interior Design. Reed is an award-winning oil painter who specializes in custom pet portraits and serves on the Board of Trustees for the Westfield Art Association. She was painting from home and looking for more of a sense of community. She wanted to find a place where she could paint with other local artists and be able to store her supplies and art. “I was looking for a co-working environment and didn’t really find any in this area, so I created one,” Reed said.

“I lucked out finding this old VFW building and then the studio grew from here. It’s centrally located to a lot of towns,” she said.

Artists can bring their supplies and sign up to use the co-working space for $20 for three hours. You can also rent a locker and store your belongings and supplies there. “It’s your studio away from home. Come whatever three hours you want during the times that we’re open and do your work,” Reed said. She also has two semi-private rooms that are 9 feet by 9 feet that artists can rent month-to-month. These rooms have their own locks and the artists can use the room at any time. One room is still available for rent!

The front area has a bar left over from the VFW days and it’s a nice place where parents sit and chat while their kids are in class and they’re waiting to pick them up. “The first thing everybody would say when they walked in and saw the bar was, ‘Oh, we can have a party here!’ It wasn’t part of my original business model but I thought, ‘Well, why not?’ So I started doing some of the paint and sip [wine] parties. I also rent out the space for parties on Sundays. We’ve done first birthday parties, christening parties, things like that. Customers can get their own caterer and use the whole space,” Reed said.

Reed selects works from local artists to display around the workshop and have for sale. “The art we have for sale is affordable, accessible art, created by local artists… maybe even one of your neighbors,” she said. She says art students and parents who browse while their kids are in class are interested in buying some of the pieces.

A large part of Reed’s business comes from classes. Check out the updated schedule on her website for kids, teen and adult art classes. “There are daytime and evening classes. Some students are brand new and have always wanted to do some sort of art and give it a try, and then there are people who did art when they were younger and now they’re coming back to it. There are some who are pretty experienced and they just want to find someplace close by where they can create with other people,” said Reed. A six-session watercolor adult painting class starts around $150. Reed instructs some classes and hires teachers. “I just want to be accessible, nice, encouraging and warm. I’m trying to hire people with those characteristics so that customers and students have a positive experience,” said Reed. “My original thought for this business was, ‘I’m going to have this studio and lots of people are going to come and use the studio,’ but it turns out more people really want to learn through the classes,” she said. Reed says the space can be rented out for holiday parties, community groups, fundraiser events and more.