- Associated Press - Monday, November 19, 2018

FRANKLIN, N.H. (AP) - Kristan Skora knows how art can heal.

Skora, a special education aide at Franklin High School, has suffered from anxiety and depression for most of her life. One thing that helps her cope, she said, is getting in front of an easel and painting.

“It’s a healthy way to focus all of that energy into creating things that are beautiful,” she said.

Now, Skora is hoping to bring that healing power to the city of Franklin with her new store, Driven By Art.

The shop, decorated with colorfully painted ceiling tiles and portraits and landscapes on the walls, hosts finger and splatter painting, moon sand and slime making parties for kids, after-school programs and adult activities, like wine glass and canvas painting. Skora also has a couple of local songwriters and guitar players on board, who can work with customers interested in music.

She hopes to eventually expand the business to include art forms like drama and writing. She said her goal is to make the store a community gathering space as much as a place to make art.

“I think it will be a good outlet for people here,” she said. “Right now, there’s not too much to do in the downtown. We have some challenges, but Franklin has a great community and deserves for people to see all that it has to offer.”

During a recent glass painting class for city of Franklin employees, Skora sat at the head of a wooden table, demonstrating each stroke of the brush before patiently watching attendees replicate it.

“There’s no such thing as mistakes - only happy accidents,” she told the group.

Skora said she has been drawn to the art world for as long as she can remember.

While in school, she took every art class that was available to her - silk screening, drawing and painting - and would sell her work at craft fairs. But when she became a mother, the time she could devote to art was limited.

Then, a few years ago, she got a job at a Lowell, Mass., company, JJArtworks, that hired her to teach freelance paint parties to locals. She did one at a downtown nonprofit, Franklin Studio, as well as to a group from the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families.

She said at one point, a customer pulled her aside and told her how much she enjoyed her class.

“She said, ‘you just glow when you do this - you light up,’ ” she said. “I knew it was something I had to pursue.”

Skora’s hope is that Driven By Art will have something for everyone.

She tries to keep the prices low so people in the area can afford it. Children’s parties are $10 per child with an eight-participant minimum, and people can pay less than $10 to use paints, graphite and oil pastels on do-it-yourself projects.

Skora said they have anything from rocks, T-shirts and hats, sneakers and canvases ranging from 25 cents to $10 that people can purchase to work on.

She said she doesn’t mind if people just stop by and use the space to write, or work on personal projects.

“Obviously we want paying customers, but I also want it to be a safe place for people to hang out and be a part of the community,” she said.

Driven By Art is the only store of its kind in Franklin - and in surrounding towns, Skora said. She said she’s hoping it will help bring the community together.

“I’m hoping that it’s a place where families will want to come out of their homes and come to the town for,” she said. “I definitely don’t want people to underestimate Franklin.”

Driven By Art songwriting teacher “B” Johnson, who has lost several loved ones to the opioid crisis, said it might be a good place for people to come and let off steam now that the local recovery center has closed.

“Creativity, drawing and music are great ways for people to get some of that out instead of just suppressing it,” he said.


Online: https://bit.ly/2S312uy


Information from: Concord Monitor, http://www.concordmonitor.com

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