We’re lucky here in Chicago to have so many art studios that introduce kids to drawing, painting, sculpting, sewing and mess making (yep, that’s a fine art, too). Now there’s a new spot to check out — and it has a cool specialty unlike any you’ve seen.

Inside Out Art Studio has just opened in Portage Park on the city’s northwest side, and it’s the ultimate place to learn to make masks. Think of it as art … with a good dose of drama.

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The Studio & Teachers
Inside Out moved to Portage Park from a little space Northcenter/Lincoln Square, where it gained a quiet but steady following for 10 years. Its new digs are in the heart of a budding cultural community; it shares a building with a theater company and the Veteran’s Art Museum.

The space is a working artists’ studio, which means that the vibe is pretty special. Artist Jeff Semmerling owns the studio along with his wife, Donna Semmerling Lurie, and both make their work there. Donna is a state-certified art teacher that paints and Jeff, a theater major, has spent many years performing and making masks.

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The entire front of the studio is a gallery of their creations, which inspires the young artists that come through. It’s a true mom-and-pop shop with a warm, inclusive feel and — for the time being — no pesky wait list.

The Classes & Camps
One of the signature offerings at Inside Out is Family Mask Making Classes, held select Saturdays. Families with kids ages 6 and up are invited to hang out and learn to make superhero or masquerade ball masks together. They’re taught a simple leather mask-making technique that produces a first mask in just two hours. For adults only, Jeff teaches mask-making classes weekly and as weekend intensives, and gets students from all around the world.

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The studio also offers Winter Break, Spring Break and Summer Break Art Camps for kids ages 5 and up, which run from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., with before and after care available for an extra fee. It’s enough time to do two or three projects a day and sometimes multi-day projects that require drying time between steps. The projects can vary from sculpture, masks, puppets, painting and drawing, and can be flexible to the specific interests of our students.

For this Winter Break Camp session, held December 23-January 3, kids will explore technical drawing, painting, masks and puppets, and learn art history and vocabulary as it relates to the projects. There are two age groups — 5 to 8 and 9 & up — at two separate tables.

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Birthday Parties
If you’re tired of the bouncy-house brigade or house parties, give an art party a shot. Inside Out throws them for all ages and all occasions. Parties last two hours and most of the time is spent making an art project designed to the interests of the birthday boy or girl. Projects like pop-up book scenes, paintings on canvas, and mask or puppet making are popular choices. For the last portion of the party, cake and treats can be served (providing them is up to the party host). The cost is $100 for the space and $150 for the teaching artist and any extra special materials.

Curious? Drop by, say “hi” and start where your new art adventure takes you.

Inside Out Art Studio
4041 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Portage Park
773-697-5012
For more information and to register for classes and camps, go online: insideoutarts.us

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Will you check out this cool new place? Let us know in the Comments section below.

— Kelly Aiglon

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Photos: Marina Samovsky Photography