Bringing out the artist in you

Ruby Farias (left) and Danna Gabardy of Me The Artist in their brush-cleaning room.

Story and photos by Dan Friedman

Danna Gabardy and Ruby Farias gave up the banking industry for creative entertainment. It took them a year from concept to opening in a retail space at CityNorth in Phoenix, where Me The Artist holds instructor-led painting sessions for adults and kids. In a two- to three-hour span, attendees complete a 16 x 20″ painting.

Customers sign up online and choose a session that features one of the 77 paintings they want to do, whether Frosty the Snowman, desert scene or lily pond. They start with a blank canvas and follow Farias’ step-by-step instructions.

Me The Artist has its own nomenclature for its brand. A finished masterpiece is a Me’sterpiece, the artist a Me’tist, the instructor a Me’guide and studio events are Me’vents. The focus isn’t on artistic progress but on a fun, social event. It’s easy to imagine the appeal to adults who haven’t painted since grade school. At the end of each session, everyone poses for a group picture with their finished artwork.

Farias is the artistic and creative energy behind the company while Gabardy is in charge of operations, marketing and sales. The women field- tested the concept at parties, community centers and events to see how people engaged with the idea before deciding the studio needed a home so people could find them and see a calendar of events. Their 2,000-square-foot studio space is painted black and white except for the colorful, Jackson Pollack-esque walls of the brush-cleaning room.

The purpose of the business is less art and more recreation and relaxation, though an open studio will be provided for customers inspired to develop their artistic aesthetic. Farias has been an artist for years, showing and selling her artwork. She says art was a good counterbalance to the project management she did at Chase.

Gabardy did corporate strategy at Chase so she has plenty of experience organizing and putting the pieces of a business together. She says the most surprising part of the process is the “length of time it takes to build awareness” of the business. Until the many empty retail spaces at CityNorth are filled there isn’t much pedestrian traffic, but all the residential units are rented above the retail spaces so it’s not deserted.

The two have time to devote to their venture as neither has toddlers or youngsters to take care of. Gabardy’s daughter is grown and Farias’ daughter is in seventh grade. They will offer more events and classes as the business grows, including classes for kids over school breaks as well as summer activities.

Learn more about Me The Artist.

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