Lisa Albert: Art From The Heart
No matter how much we cover Costa Mesa, we still make new discoveries on the daily. Today’s feature is a perfect example. We had no idea they existed, let alone for over 25 years. But now that we’ve become acquainted with Lisa Albert Art Studio, we can’t imagine 17th Street without this charming, makerspace oasis.
Lisa Albert – the art instructor and entrepreneurial namesake behind the studio – is an Australian native who knew, from the moment she arrived, that she wanted to make her unique, creative mark on Costa Mesa.
“Explore The Artist Within” at Lisa Albert Art Studio, 440 East 17th Street in Eastside Costa Mesa
“I’m from Australia originally,” began Albert in her warm and lilting Aussie accent. “After I got married, we moved here to Los Angeles. My husband was working as a federal prosecutor. I started working at the Brentwood Fine Art Center and also for a very well-known Australian artist by the name of Ken Done.”
In the late 80s, the couple eventually moved down to the Costa Mesa area.
“When I got here, my first thought was, ‘Wow. Where’s the art? This place is so cookie-cutter,'” said Albert. “Coming from Australia, where everything is just very creative, very imaginative, very colorful, it was a bit of a shock. So I thought to myself, ‘I guess I’ll have to start something myself. Seize the moment, Lisa. Go for it.’ So that’s what I did.”
Albert got to work building an art program at the Park Newport Apartments. There was clearly a need for art enrichment because within the first year she had almost 400 children enrolled.
As a recent transplant, what gave her the courage to strike out in a brand new place?
“I spent three years traveling the world on my own when I was younger,” said Albert. “So I’m an adventurous person. I like being out of my comfort zone and reinventing myself; that’s fun for me. I also didn’t know anyone here, so I was looking for ways to connect with my community.
“I think it comes down to the fact that I’m a real go-getter. If I’m very passionate about something, nothing will stop me. I’ll do what it takes to see the idea come to fruition.
“I saw the need for kids in this area to have a real creative outlet – and I don’t mean ‘paint by numbers.’ Let the kids express themselves. Let them harness that need to unleash their creativity. I put my energy and my experience into making that happen.”
“Let The Kids Express Themselves…” (Lisa Albert Art Studio, Eastside Costa Mesa)
As interest in Albert’s services grew, so did her need for a dedicated studio. So she set about looking for a place where she could set up shop.
“I became a studio stalker,” laughed Albert. “Remember, I warned you I was a go-getter. Nothing stops me. I was looking for my spot and wasn’t giving up until I got it.
“I remember so clearly the day it finally clicked. I had my newborn with me and had to stop and nurse the baby. I thought, ‘I need to find a space that suits my eclectic personality. Somewhere safe where the kids can be dropped off and the parents feel comfortable.’ So I stopped here. Then I started knocking on doors around this center – going in and out, up and down – asking about availability.
“There was one woman here, at the time, who had two units. She was using one of them as her sort of storage junk spot. I asked if I could lease it and she shrugged and said, ‘I was about to tell the landlord I didn’t need it anymore, anyway. It’s yours.’ I seized the moment and immediately took it over.”
In the years since, Albert has grown Lisa Albert Art Studio into the cheerful, eclectic beacon of inspiration it is today.
“I love eclectic,” said Albert. “My house is eclectic. My art is eclectic. Everything I do is mixed. That makes me right at home in Costa Mesa which has a very eclectic, mixed feel.”
Albert offers kids classes in everything from ceramics to painting, drawing to mixed media – even graphics design. Keep an eye out for art camps during school breaks – and for Albert herself on your child’s campus. (She’s an art instructor for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.)
“I teach art to hundreds of kids each week, of all different ages,” said Albert. “And a little piece of me goes with every child. I learn as much from them as they learn from me. And I’ve been around long enough that I’m having second generations come to me. The kids I taught, they now have their children enrolling in my classes.”
Albert also offers Art Therapy for different organizations and art classes tailored to young adults with special needs. Her love of variety clearly shows up in this diverse teaching schedule, which suits Albert just fine.
“I don’t like to have what everybody else has,” said Albert. “I like to be different, it’s important to me. So, for example, I love shopping around here. I can be at Ross and find a treasure, then visit a high-end boutique and find something to mix and match the two. I can get chili at Wendy’s for lunch or go have a great, sit-down meal at Tabu Shabu. The variety of Costa Mesa is just fun. It’s so much fun.”
Viva Variety: A Studio As Eclectic As Its Owner (At Lisa Albert Art Studio, Costa Mesa)
In 2015, Albert jumped on an opportunity to expand her business with The Clay House, a cozy, ceramics studio where artists of all ages and abilities could come paint, chat and create together. It was a dream come true for Albert that, unfortunately, came to an end almost as soon as it began.
“I loved that space,” said Albert. “It was in a little house across the parking lot. I transformed it into a creative, ceramics studio with a little kitchen. I had parties in there. Women came in their pajamas at night for little painting parties. We did some art therapy. I poured myself into The Clay House and we did all these really cool things with it.
“But because Ruby’s and The Annex got taken over, they needed to take back my little space for storage. I mean, I understand from a business perspective. But I’m not going to lie, it was pretty heartbreaking news for me.”
Down, but not out, Albert decided to keep an open mind about future prospects.
“When one door closes, you have to remain open to future possibilities,” said Albert. “So I put it out to the universe. That’s when my good friend Ann Pike – who owned the monogramming store next door for 25 years – told me she was moving to Spokane to be with her daughter. I saw the opportunity to expand and I grabbed the space. Now I’m taking everything I learned, and loved, about The Clay House and putting it into my new co-op studio, gallery and events center.”
Bringing creative vision to life doesn’t come easy. It’s been months of hard work for Albert, but she doesn’t seem to mind.
“I’ve been spending a lot of time up on ladders, scraping wallpaper and putting in floors,” said Albert. “I’m also a bit of a dumpster diver, so I’ve been finding old frames and painting them black – that sort of thing.
“Sure, it’s a lot of work. But I see myself as a visionary. I love to create. I love to make things happen. This all feels so energizing to me.”
Albert’s plans for the new studio are as mixed and eclectic as everything else in her life.
“I have a million ideas,” said Albert. “Bring in artists to work with spray paint on metal, graffiti artists. Bring in lectures and workshops. Rent it out for events. Co-op studio space with artists. Host makers’ markets. Oh! I’ve always wanted to do a poetry slam, so we are definitely trying that.
“I don’t yet know all the things this space wants to be, but I do know we have the need for more creative hubs in Costa Mesa. I want this studio to feel welcoming to anybody. I believe if we come together and share ideas, really powerful things can happen.
“We can grow as a community through good, old-fashioned human contact. When you’re doing art, you’re connecting on a very personal and emotional level. I want to see more of that in this city. I think people are craving it.”
As she embarks on her latest creative leap, Albert can’t think of a better place to do it.
“Costa Mesa is really having its day in the sun,” said Albert. “The energy of the city is bringing in lots of young families, musicians, artists, entrepreneurs – the people who want to be close to the beach and close to the action.
“I know I’m not getting any younger. But I still hope to serve by inspiring and mentoring wonderful, local people to jump into their own creativity. Take the lead and don’t be afraid to stand out. I mean, what’s the worst that happens? You fail. Then you just pick yourself up. Do it again, Reinvent. Keep going. That’s sort of my motto in life.
“You want to do something creative? This city is the place to do it. The restrictions are much more relaxed than, say, Newport Beach – but you’re still close to the water.
“Costa Mesa is on the right track. It’s going to be the nucleus for the art world in Orange County, without a doubt. The schools already show it. I see the change. Now the Westside is just booming and the whole city is alive with creativity.
“Watch out, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. Here comes Costa Mesa.” ♥
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