At 10 a.m. on a Friday morning, most of the Provo Towne Centre mall is fairly quiet.

But the Neighborhood Art Center, a newly opened nonprofit on the top floor of the mall, was abuzz with activity.

Preschoolers ran around between the many different art stations. Some concentrated intensely as they cut out shapes for screen printing, while others ran around with blue paint on their faces following a foray to the painting center.

Laura Taylor, of Lehi, brought her sons, age 1 and 3, to the studio Friday with several other mothers who are part of a pre-school co-op.

Though both her boys were hands deep in activities, Taylor said she was particularly surprised with how much fun her almost-2 year old was enjoying himself.

“He’s just been walking around painting all over the wall in the paint room and really enjoying it,” Taylor said. “He stood up on a chair for like 15 minutes just watching the screen printing going on.”

A space where kids can freely be creative was exactly what Tallia Feltis was going for when she opened the studio.

“I think it’s really important for kids to have space, and just for a community to have space to be creative,” Feltis said. “We have so many cool artists and kids in Provo. It just goes well together.”

Feltis has wanted to create something similar ever since her kids — age 6 and 8 — were born. And creating some of the spaces in the center was easy, considering she had her own kids’ interests to base it off of.

“We have a room kind of like this in our house,” she said, gesturing to a creative space with varying art supplies. “It’s just an art room full of random stuff, so yeah, it made it kind of easy to create this because I already knew what they were into.”

All materials are donated, which helps keep costs for the studio low, Feltis said.

Other work areas include spaces to build with blocks, stitch your name or design at the “stitching table,” or head to the painting room, where you can paint anything you want — including the walls.

Feltis said she loves watch kids getting focused on a project, but says the adults who come often end up creating as well.

“This guy I saw the other day was just working on his (screen) print for like an hour,” Feltis said. “His kids were playing, but he was like, really absorbed in it, and I think that’s cool.”

Another time, a mom crocheted at one of the stations while her kids did other activities.

“It can be hard to get that experience, when there’s just so many distractions,” Feltis said. “So it’s cool when you can just focus and make something.”

For right now, the center has been having open studio during the day, where anyone can pay to come in and use the areas.

Starting next month, Feltis said, classes will start. For right now, she only has one class for sure nailed down, but hopes in the future to expand to adult art classes as well.

“I think it’s really important for kids to have space, and just for a community to have space to be creative. We have so many cool artists and kids in Provo. It just goes well together.” — Tallia Feltis, Neighborhood Art Center

Katie England covers politics, the environment and courts for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at 801-344-2599 or kengland@heraldextra.com.

Katie England covers politics, county government and southern Utah County for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at 801-344-2599 or kengland@heraldextra.com.

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