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Mother and daughter tap into creativity to form new business

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How about starting a business that’s mobile, partners with other established companies and lets customers tap into their creative side?

That’s what a mother and daughter are doing in the Brainerd lakes area with their Traveling Art Pub.

Sarah Stawarski, a graphic design student at Central Lakes College, was inspired to bring the idea to the lakes area after attending Cocktails and Canvas events in Denver. It sparked her interest in a new take on happy hour.

A love of art was part of growing up in the Stawarski home. When Sarah Stawarski moved back home, she shared the idea with her mom. The two attended a community education jewelry-making class.

They bounced around the concept of creating a new mobile twist on a night out with a creative event, food and beverage. Lisa Stawarski said it didn’t take any convincing for her to join the effort. She was sold from the start.

Then they happened across the title of a journal in a book store. It was just another reminder to take the leap. It said: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” They looked at each other and decided to do it.

“That’s a message. We have to go for it, It’s going to be scary but we’re going to do it,” Lisa Stawarski said.

Their first event was painting with wax at the Sunshine Kitchen Moonshine Lounge in northeast Brainerd. It led to monthly events at the Brainerd restaurant. The business sparked in the family garage and a back room. Now they are settling in, renovating a former filling station on the 500 block of South Sixth Street into an office and studio. They can envision hosting classes there, but don’t want to stray too far from their traveling roots. Sarah Stawarski said her long-term goals may include classes on a European trip.

“We have some big dreams,” her mom said.

The Traveling Art Pub hires the artist, gathers the supplies and coordinate the venues — a growing list of lakes area restaurants, resorts, community education, coffee houses and brew pubs. They connected with Prairie Bay restaurant in Baxter. Soon Maucieri’s Italian Bistro in Crosslake reached out to them, as did Grand View Lodge in Nisswa. Lisa Stawarski said they all share a mission of connecting to the arts and the community.

“We love seeing people happy and having fun and enjoying themselves,” Lisa Stawarski said. “And when you get people laughing and giggling and telling stories and sharing and meeting and connecting — that’s the magic.”

This weekend, the Stawarskis are blending with two major events as a participant at Grand View Lodge for the Governor’s Fishing Opener and a Mother’s Day watercolor painting and tea party at Prairie Bay. The goal is to relax and create a memory with mom as much as a work of art.

As a mother and daughter team, they are combining their strengths. Part of the draw in creating their own business was being able to work together. Lisa Stawarski, 52, is the organizer. Her day job is youth programs coordinator with the Brainerd School District, where she has been for 28 years. Sarah Stawarski, 27, creates the look via her graphic design and event planning work experience and updates the social networking.

“We are a great team,” Sarah Stawarski said.

“We are pretty fortunate,” her mother said. “We feel very blessed. It’s just been a blast to do it.”

The events aren’t limited to the people who identify themselves as artists but are designed for any skill level, any gender, any age. They’ll work with those who want to go step by step or with those who want the freedom to take a concept and give it their own spin.

Sarah Stawarski said they enjoy working with people who think they don’t have artistic talent. They’ve had men in classes who end up creating interesting abstract art.

Customers pay a fee, which varies and can be $45 depending on the project. The fee covers the instruction, art materials, a signature beverage and appetizer. A Craft squared event on May 29 combines craft art with craft beer.

For Vicki Hanson, Merrifield, the Traveling Art Pub offered a new option to find an experience she could share with her mom. They went to Maucieri’s in Crosslake for an Ode to Spring acrylic painting excursion combined with the Italian restaurant eating experience.

“It was something for my mom and I to do together,” Hanson said. “We had a lot of fun, that’s what matters. We got to be creative and do our own thing.”

Events have included jewelry making, painting, pottery, mixed-media collages. Customers include girls’ nights out, private get-togethers, reunions, birthday parties and corporate events.

Later Hanson joined the Traveling Art Pub for a pottery event earlier this week at the Franklin Arts Center under the tutelage of Paul Bloom.

Hanson spent hours in the high school art room as a teenager.

“I couldn’t get enough of it,” she said. Twenty-five years later, the Traveling Art Pub offered her a chance to try it again and craft a plate and ring holder from a ball of clay and a potters’ wheel.

“It’s kind of nice to have classes like this so you can come back and do things you used to like as a kid,” she said.

“It’s a nice escape,” said Pamela Dickson, Pine River. “Puts your mind in a totally different place.”

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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