our story.
Ever have the creative urge to change your path?
When my child was a just a little baby, I went back to work as a college Professor, and decided that I wanted to work creatively in a new way.  I also wanted to do something that could potentially serve more people and the world, while allowing me to prioritize mothering a young child.

And so … LOVE LAB STUDIO was born, as a social art project designed to serve + sustain itself. This is an experiment, really.  One we take seriously and put lots of care into!

the studio
Our space is bright and newly renovated! The design is thoughtfully curated for the needs of children, and to be warm and joyful. We are located in a mixed residential and retail neighborhood in the West End of Portland, Maine, across from a yummy cafe and at the edge of a beautiful park and playground and a nearby urban food forest. We believe that shared creative space where all are welcome is a good thing. We want to empower you, and the children in your life to be more creative.

some of our values
We place children, with respect and care, at the center of all we do. We think about:
* The whole child: social & emotional development and inclusion within a caring community
* The child as communicator: language development through participation, listening, poetry
* The child as co-creator: project based, hands on, and individual learning
* The child as artist: centering arts, creativity + imagination
* The child as informed citizen: community member, global & ecological participant

Experience Gifts. We have sweet gift cards. We can wrap them up for you or send on-line.

Grown ups.
Studio Mondays offer reflective, fun, productive studio time for adults. We curate projects that can be followed with room to experiment!

Young children and a grown up can experiment and build community at SMOOSH!
Tad older children can do our amazing Art Thursdays and this month we also have other fun offerings like holiday making parties.
Watch for our Solstice, Hanukkah and New Years offerings!
We also do sweetest art camps, our next one just up on the site is Winter Art Camp.

Community art, education + public art.
We work with community partners and organizations on creative community art and education projects. Some of our community partners and projects include: Space Gallery, Portland Museum of Art, Birth Roots, Portland Lantern Walk, Tempo Art, Heartfelt School, Bowdoinham Community School,Portland Society of Architects and The Complete City  Reimagined Cultivating Community.

We can do a limited amount of consulting, parties and special projects.

Our collaborative team includes skilled and caring lead teachers. We are a unique group , each of us having different, skilled/certified training and experience in: Columbia Teachers College Reading and Writing Program, Reggio Emilia, Public School, Waldorf Schools, and Art pedagogy of all kinds and more. We bring in supportive art assistants as needed.

Lead Director, Christina Bechstein, is an artist, mama + teacher who has created and taught in all kinds of spaces.  She makes her home in Maine with her daughter Melu, Pippy (our cat) and winter surfing, tech advisor sound-recording husband Pete, but she was born in the midwest, and has lived all over the country. She is grateful for her loving lineage from her grandmothers, the family grocery store, her teacher mom, her strong aunts who love to cook.  Christina has made art with folks in gardens, churches, fire stations, art/architecture colleges, elementary + pre-schools, community centers + lots of spaces in-between. Her first teaching job was as a Montessori School Art Teacher, and from there, taught at University of Detroit School of Architecture and area schools, Kingswood Academy of Art, Interlochen Center for the Arts, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Rhode Island School of Design, and the Advent School in Boston while doing other community based, public art teaching gigs in community. Most recently, as Associate Professor of Art at Maine College of Art here in Portland (before she had her baby and started studio!).
She’s got on the ground knowledge + studied some diverse art/creative pedagogies including Reggio Emilia, Montessori, Waldorf inspired, Social Sculpture. Christina is super grateful to have studied many of them in places like Mexico, Italy, Germany, France and Detroit. With a background in textiles, sculpture and public art from studies at Cranbrook Academy of Art, Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture and Weimar Jena Akademie and collaborative leadership work as a facilitator, consultant and supporter of folks in the fields of creativity, teaching and service/public engagement. As an artist, she’s shown her work both nationally and internationally, and have been fortunate enough to receive awards and grants to help make that possible.
OH + a personal note… I struggled to write that above bio but want to model for other people to brag up what they do! Also,  I love color, pattern, materials, being a mama, people being loving to one another and present, things that are made my hand, drinking tea + coffee, the color yellow and wearing scarves. (that’s me below, with my daughter, installing public art!.)

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some other things we are thinking about…
1. can love be an art material?
We think that love, and action, is essential to creating a better world, so we’re claiming ‘love’ as an art material. We experiment with how to put this idea into action. It’s really a feeling, right? An idea? A noun + a verb?
A story...For many years I taught at college level, I would lead courses in collaboration and community work, and over + over, I would ask students “what is the core value, the real reason for us to learn how to co-create in community?” And over and over, the students would share in their private reflected writing … it’s love. LOVE was the primary value, reason, and even material in their work in community. If I had images of all the times I saw students in that course write “love”…It was so moving, and so inspiring. We aim to keep love at the center of all that we do.

2. can we co-create space where we feel joyful, safe and ready to make + learn?
We believe that folks gathering together – of different ages, viewpoints, languages, religions, races, cultures and more – through making – (food or craft or art) is a great thing. We strive to do this through our various projects, collaborations, always working to learn more as we go, and feel incredibly grateful for the gift of community diversity in all its forms.
We also strive to create experiences that are both free + paid, and happen in both private and public spaces. We believe that opportunities for conscious creativity should be accessible to all. We are very into setting up the conditions for creativity to blossom. We also do this in our community work, taking our art-making to public space, in our community projects. We believe ‘studio’ is wherever you create and reflect. (the sidewalk, the forest, your kitchen) LOVE LAB STUDIO happens in different spaces.

3. creativity might be one key to co-creating a better + more just world?
Do you feel more joyful, even healthier when you are creative?
We believe creativity thrives when nurtured, and that it is good for us as individuals and a society. It’s not that we all have to think of ourselves as artists, but what if we feel more empowered to act on our potential to co-create a better world? Imagine too, that creativity is an essential life ingredient for wholeness – to open up life, beautify it, slow it (or us) down + support the shine We’re talking about engaging in creativity in a way that supports us to pause, get more connected to nature, ourselves, both the material/form (and unseen/spirit/other) parts of our world.  The idea that “everyone is an artist” means to some that you are by nature of being human, creative. Yes. Forget anything you ever heard about yourself doubting that.
You are also creating, right now. This very minute.
We want to mirror that creativity back to you, so we can all have more beauty. And empower us all – all ages, to work together to create something more evolved.  Can we co-create a loving, better world for all? We can try, and creativity might be one piece of this. Let’s do it!