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‘Kindergarten for adults’: Petaluma’s new Artaluma gets into the flow

Planning to go?

What: Artaluma Open House and Grand Opening

When: 3 p.m. Saturday, April 30, the open house begins. The Grand Opening ceremony and Happy Hour is 5-6:30 p.m.

Where: 145 Keller St. in Petaluma.

Information and reservation: To reserve a place for the Artaluma Grand Opening ceremony, or to get information about the center’s offerings, visit Artaluma.com.

Artaluma, a new multi-disciplinary creativity gym and art center in Petaluma that quietly opened its doors in January, will finally host its official grand opening and open house Saturday, April 30.

Designed as a downtown destination spot where people can go on an artistic learning adventure together, the center will offer arts-based classes and workshops, plus salons, retreats and camps for adults, kids and families. The grand opening will be a chance for owner Elizabeth McKoy to share her deeply personal vision for the future of Artaluma.

“Families can explore the space and get their hands into what I’m doing,” she said recently.

The opening ceremony will include a happy hour with wine and appetizers, with dancing to live music by the bands SoloRio and Burning Bush. McKoy will give a presentation about what Artaluma will be offering to the community. Mayor Teresa Barrett will be on hand, as well as some of the community partners that Artaluma will be working with. Due to limited space, those hoping to attend the ceremony must register in advance.

McKoy, an actress, singer, painter and teacher, has served as an arts administrator, a theater director and an artistic director. In 2007, she founded the acclaimed Berkeley Playhouse, its home being the historic Julia Morgan Theater. She has shown a devotion to supporting artistic learning of all kinds and creating relationships in the process of making art.

Having recently relocated with her family to Petaluma, McKoy decided to create Artaluma to encourage personal growth through artistic expression. One of the first offerings were dance lessons, which she often leads herself, using simple choreography and clear directions, through which participants are encouraged to be creative.

Among her goals for Artaluma is to give people who don’t feel creative a chance to learn they can be.

“So much of the research says that adults need play and imagination in order to have mental health,” McKoy said. “One of the things I say is that this should feel like kindergarten for adults.”

Presently, McKoy is teaching most of the classes but that won’t be forever. She’s seeking out like-minded teachers for storytelling, art and dance classes.

“My goal,” she said, “is to have world dance classes here, like Latin and Afro-Cuban.”

McKoy is particularly interested in cultivating relationships and helping people grow over time.

“When you’re doing the process of making art, theater, dance music and visual art, you get into that flow stage,” she said. “Then so many things are released because you’re not stressed out, because you’re not in that anxious place.” She describes what happens at Artaluma as “not art therapy,” though she allows that it is therapeutic.

Much of the activities there are also intentionally joyful, such as her family dance-jam classes, where entire families dance together.

“It’s such a beautiful experience,” McKoy said.

Eventually, Artaluma will host small, informal salons once a month where creative people can share what they love to do, perhaps along with a demonstration, as well as weekend retreats for adults.

In addition to Artaluma’s large room — with a grand piano for holding dance classes in the front — an area is set up for digital storytelling. There is a large outdoor patio space that can also be used for classes. McKoy said if COVID-19 restrictions hit again, she’s thrilled to have such a flexible outdoor area. She will also eventually have a space with art supplies and artisan pieces for sale.

“We have a lot going on,” she said.

Among the programs McKoy hopes to offer is an experience called RIFFS, a show choir for kids in grades third through eighth, featuring singing, dancing and poetry.

“It’s one of the most successful and beautiful things I’ve ever been a part of,” she said.

Planning to go?

What: Artaluma Open House and Grand Opening

When: 3 p.m. Saturday, April 30, the open house begins. The Grand Opening ceremony and Happy Hour is 5-6:30 p.m.

Where: 145 Keller St. in Petaluma.

Information and reservation: To reserve a place for the Artaluma Grand Opening ceremony, or to get information about the center’s offerings, visit Artaluma.com.

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