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West Valley City Journal

Paint stress away at WV library’s Brushstroke program

Feb 28, 2017 09:04AM ● By Travis Barton

Two paintings done in the same class of the same picture, but by different people. Librarian Ileana Oprea said it is her favorite part of the program to see completely different visions come out of the same instructions. (Ileana Oprea/Salt Lake County Library)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]
West Valley Library plays host to a program called Creative Therapy – Brushstrokes, a monthly art class with a relaxed atmosphere focused on participants destressing.
“Basically the point is to just have fun and destress a little bit…that’s why it’s called Creative Therapy,” said Ileana Oprea, public services librarian who spearheads the program.
Oprea said the brushstroke program focuses more on painting and acrylic painting. It started as coloring before interest died down and they stuck with the brushstroke. Oprea said it started after she participated in a painting class. She enjoyed it so much she wanted library patrons to experience the fun as well.
Painting won’t be the only creative outlet used in the program. In March, the class will be on weaving while January brought in a special guest to teach drawing, Adriana Vawdrey from the Visual Art Institute.
Vawdrey is an illustrator and storyteller born and raised in Salt Lake City. Working to draw a picture of artist Aaron Davis, Vawdrey taught those in attendance important aspects of drawing faces such as the eyes.
Joy Kellaris, a regular attendee of the brushstroke program, said she made improvement and she’s happy with what she came up with.
“Prior to this I couldn’t draw a face, at least now I can draw a recognizable face. It may not be Aaron Davis, but you can know it’s a human being,” Kellaris said. It also brings an appreciation for the different artistic crafts for those who attend.
“Drawing is more like science where painting is more like art, more free form,” Kellaris said shortly after the class ended.
The quality of the art produced during the class plays second fiddle to the purpose of the program: for people to enjoy themselves.
Oprea recounted a time when a group of women from a local medical clinic came to the class for a “girls’ afternoon” saying it was the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
“It’s just a great way for people to forget their daily stresses and just come and have fun and enjoy what they are doing,” Oprea said. That is one of the reasons Kellaris has come since May of last year.
“I wanted to learn how to paint, get exposed to it… I just like coming to the class, getting out of the house and doing it,” Kellaris said.
All necessary supplies are provided for the free program, Kellaris said, and each class has a laid-back atmosphere allowing participants creative freedom.
“[The instructor] gives a lesson and example and says ‘do whatever you want with it.’ We’re pretty free, we don’t have to do more specific exercises you might get in an actual more formalized class,” Kellaris said.
That freedom leads to Oprea’s favorite part of the program.
“My favorite part is seeing how when we do a specific exercise, is seeing how people received the same set of instructions and the end product looks so different,” she said.
This scenario played out with Kellaris during one of her classes where she said the person next her painted what looked like “a 70’s retro painting, like psychedelic” while she tried to be more literal.
“And it was the same picture we started with. That was a blast,” Kellaris said.
While anywhere from six to 12 people show up each month, Kellaris urged people to come check it out.
“More people should attend. They should, why are you intimidated by painting?” Kellaris said.
Creative Therapy – Brushstroke program is geared for adults, Oprea said, but when they do coloring, kids are allowed though it can get noisy.
The next class will be March 11 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the West Valley Library. To find the program’s schedule, go to