Today we’d like to introduce you to Joana Pratt Lopez.
Joana, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was trained in theater, in set design, in my home city of Cali, Colombia. I applied my skills in a company I founded to make Mardi Gras-style floats for Cali’s December Feria parades during the 1990s. Doing this, I created a technique for making decorative objects (like mirrors) and, eventually, furniture, out of recycled cardboard, and opened a studio where I taught the technique and sold furniture.
After moving to the U.S. with my husband and my first child Jesse in 2001, I began teaching art and Spanish in private schools; by doing this, Jesse and when he reached school age, my son Dylan, were both able to get a free private school education in their early schooling.
On moving to Georgia almost five years ago, I kept working in private schools, but also worked in the paint n’ sip locales that were becoming popular. A year and one month ago, I was offered the opportunity to open Art for Life, my own art studio in Buford, a mile from the Mall of GA, where I could apply more than 20 years of experience teaching and making art! At Art for Life in Buford, I work with children during the days and offer Artsy Parties to children and adults during evenings and nights! The idea is for people from 5 to 95 to be able to spend a few hours making something with their own hands, with people they love, often sharing food and drink — and then take home a work of art!
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I started Art for Life in Buford without any savings and despite all attempts, could not find any federal or other loans for minority and women-owned businesses. Luckily, the person who offered me the locale was the father of a girl to whom I gave private art lessons and he offered me the first three months rent-free. Since, we also had no money to hire staff, my husband Timothy and I taught ourselves to make the website and to use social media for getting the word out. We’ve also depended on the kindness of friends, family and even customers for everything from building a stage for me teach on to helping with marketing. Plus, lacking funds, we’ve had to go the whole first 12 months without a full-sized sign we finally ordered one in February! But the word is getting out, we have 100 %, 5-star ratings across all social media platforms and have started to see more people who want to bring art into their lives in the last two months or so!
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Art for Life in Buford story. Tell us more about the business.
What sets us apart is we’re not a chain like many art studios who offer what may look like similar services; we’re family-owned and plus I have a unique background that has been detailed previously in this questionnaire. Not being a chain, we can also offer customized experiences, like private Artsy Parties where the customer suggests an image they want to learn to paint their friends and family, instead of choosing a painting from our extensive online gallery. Also, because of my experience, I work with a wide range of materials and techniques, including Paint Your Paint, antique window paintings and pouring paint.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I feel blessed and lucky to have received the initial offer of opening the studio with the first three months being rent-free; similarly, a range of customers have helped with marketing and website design and even collaborative events — but I’d also like to think that the unique experience we’re offering at Art for Life in Buford is part of the reason people want to help it thrive!
- Afterschool art classes for children are $80 and $100/mo., depending on whether they’re 1 hr. or 1 1/2 hrs. Schedules are on our website.
- Public Artsy Parties are $25/person for a 2-hour event that includes all materials and basic supplies for eating and drinking whatever you bring to the vent.
- Private Artsy Parties are also $25/person, with a min. of 6 people required to set aside a date and time, plus a $50 advance deposit.
- Address: 3616 S Bogan Rd #102, Buford, GA 30519
- Website: http://artforlife.center/
- Phone: 702-273-0186
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/artforlifeinBuford/
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/art-for-life-buford-2