August 29, 2002

Art on Wheels

Filed under: Art and About Art — admin @ 3:03 pm

Meet Lauren Asta, founder, president, CEO and sole employee of Art on Wheels. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to chat with this brilliant young woman who had one of the best ideas for how to spend her summer vacation that I have ever heard.

Lauren is an art student at Cal State University, Chico who has a wealth of babysitting and childcare experience, and a passion for art. Coming home to Lafayette for the summer, she had lined up a gig teaching art at Diablo Valley College’s “College for Kids” program. She loves working with kids of all ages and realized that the time she wasn’t teaching at DVC could still be filled with more kids and more art if she offered combined baby-sitting and art instruction services. As she put it in her publicity flyer, “Have a babysitter come to your home, help you out, and enrich your kids.”

The response was overwhelming. Lauren could hardly accommodate everyone who wanted an art-teaching babysitter. With great satisfaction, and cash in her pocket, Lauren returned to her studies at Chico a few weeks ago.

Lauren reported that one thing parents kept repeating to her was “I don’t know why no one else is doing this.” This was my thought exactly when I first heard about Lauren. I can’t say with any certainty that no one else is offering this babysitting bonus. In fact, only a couple of summer ago a wrote about teenage sisters in Piedmont who were running their own art daycamp for kids. I interview many of the children they taught, several of whom were only four or five, and they were having a wonderful time. They said every day was different and they had a lot of projects to decorate their rooms with.

But I have to say, if there are other babysitters who are doing art with kids, they are keeping it pretty quiet. I admit, I have rather strict criteria for the people with whom I choose to leave my son. I believe that everyone he encounters can bring him the gift of their knowledge, experience, interests and talents while they do even everyday activities like reading a book, playing ball or eating dinner. It’s not a 24-hour tutorial at my house. I’m just not sure how beneficial it is for my son or his babysitter when I come home and they’re watching the Cartoon Network — an activity I walked in on once.

After talking to Lauren and briefly lamenting the fact that she had to go back to school and can’t babysit for me, I remembered a mother I once worked for. During two summers while I was in graduate school, I hung out with Erin, a little girl in Moraga. Often, Erin’s mom would leave art projects for us to do. We molded soap, drew, painted, and cut-and-pasted a variety of objects. Sometimes we sang songs, or played impromptu, original duets on the piano. Sometimes we cooked magnificent concoctions in the kitchen.

As a caretaker, I appreciated these suggestions from Erin’s mom because it helped me plan a creative afternoon with Erin. I enjoyed the projects, and I think Erin did too. I had a lightbulb moment after talking with Lauren about how I could be more proactive in providing creative activities for my son and his babysitter. If I had a willing sitter, I could essentially shape him or her into an art-making babysitter. He or she doesn’t have to be an art major, or have a particular passion for art like Lauren. Hey, my son is 20-months-old — we don’t need a Rembrandt here. But hopefully if he or she enjoys drawing, painting or making figures out of pipe cleaners, we could have a mutually beneficial experience on our hands. I’m not afraid of the potential mess. I’ll even clean it up when I get home.

So while we’re creating an art studio at our house, all you babysitters should know that according to Lauren, there is a hot market in this area for multi-purpose childcare. I hope that like any good, profitable idea, there will be a wealth of folks following the lead of Art on Wheels very soon.