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Kids can create their own storybook at art class

Children can write their own story in “The Wild,” illustrated by Denise Calvo Berndt. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

WESTFIELD — ArtSpace will offer an opportunity for children and their families to write their own storybook on Saturday, Oct. 2, at 10 a.m., and Friday, Oct. 15, at 10 a.m.

The book “The Wild,” which each child gets to take home, is fully illustrated by Westfield realtor and artist Denise Calvo Berndt and professionally printed, but has no words. Each child will create an individual story.

ArtSpace is an art studio at the Mill at Crane Pond on 77 Mill St. Suite 112, Westfield. Owner Crystal Miller and Art Director Laraine Percoski opened it about a year ago as a place to offer photography and art classes to adults and children, and to display artists and photographers on their walls. Miller discovered Calvo Berndt when she attended an art opening at the studio a few months ago, and shared some of her artwork. She immediately recognized Calvo Berndt’s emerging talent.

“She was doing these beautiful watercolor illustrations at home and hanging them on the wall and doing some for friends,” Miller said, adding that she had the idea of illustrating for children’s books, but thought it would be more fun to let the families write the stories.

Calvo Berndt will be on hand at the class to offer some ideas and opinions, to encourage the creative process within each family, and to autograph the books. She said she hopes to sell enough of the books to be able to donate some to the Shriners Hospital.

An inside page from “The Wild,” illustrated by Denise Calvo Berndt. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Families can register for which class they want to take at The class costs $25, which includes taking home the book they have created. Or families may just order the book and have it shipped for $30.

Calvo Berndt said she is “not a trained artist by any stretch,” though she’s been spending more time and attention on her artwork as interest has risen.

“I don’t know what I’m doing, I really don’t,” she said.

She has paintings hanging in different places, like in her friend Donna Shibley’s store at Pilgrim Candle. Last Christmas, she was invited into the Carillon Tower at Stanley Park, and made a Christmas card from her painting of the stained glass window there. She also recently painted a bookmark of Fiona the hippo at the Cincinnati Zoo, who she’s following, and posted it on Facebook, where she got more than 500 likes.

A long-time realtor in Westfield who now works for RealLiving, she said people who buy a house from her now also get a painting.

“Whether they want it or not,” she said.

The class came about when Miller asked her to bring some of her watercolors to the open house at ArtWorks.

“She’s funny, she’s delightful, she’s encouraging,” Calvo Berndt said about Miller. She said at the open house there were suggestions for classes, and she said how fun it would be to have the kids draw some pictures and write the story with their parents and grandparents.

Her next book will be about the sea. “I love the sea,” she said.

Miller said ArtSpace is meant to be a place to take classes taught by local artists and photographers. It is also a place to rent hourly space to teach classes or tutor.

“We have a large photo wall area that photographers can rent by the hour, as well,” she said.

She said classes only really began in June. “During winter, we were only able to do online instruction or curbside pickup — it was very hard. We really thought that when we signed the contract in August that COVID was going away.”

Miller said their goal is to become a non-profit art studio.

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