Tucked away in a small house on 15th Street, a block from the new art complex, is the home of Art Studio 2008, a place of learning art in a variety of media.

It all started when Mimi Lamela, Ines Kowalyszyn, and Cristina Materon began painting together. All three had painted much of their lives.

“I used to paint when I was a little girl. I always loved painting,” said Ines. “I was divorced for 10 years, had two children, worked and I didn’t have time to paint. It was difficult to continue with this hobby.”

Remarried and retired, she began taking a few classes about 10 years ago and joined the Watercolor Society in 2005, becoming the president of the association.

Now their studio allows her to follow another of her loves.

“I like to teach,” Ines said. “It’s something that comes natural to me. I like to transfer what I know to others.”

An award winning photographer for El Periodico USA, Mimi has been painting her whole life. Starting with her first box of watercolor pencils, she has become an adventurer in the world of art. In the education arena, she has worked with children with Cerebral Palsy, always ending up as principal of her school.

“I was a teacher my whole life and never had time to paint,” Mimi said. “The good part about our studio is we get to teach and we get to learn. This is the part I like.”

The ladies began painting together, also using computer painting, and found they had a good time when they were together. During an Art Walk outing they began dreaming of having a place where they could paint and help others learn about their favorite hobby.

Finding their little home at 910 N. 15th, only a block off Main Street and Hackberry, they set up shop. There’s a room to learn on computers — painting, the internet, power point, a room to paint, a room to create, even a new garden to bring in another aspect of nature and art. Powerful paintings bedeck the walls as relaxing music drifts throughout the various rooms.

“We want this to be an interactive place,” said Mimi. “Not just for taking classes. We have music, we have coffee. We’re like a family with our students. And, the three of us get along so well because we’re happy.”

Cristina has been painting since 1980 in oils and acrylics.

“I am interested in creating abstract artwork that reflects my love of nature and color,” said Cristina. “My approach is to explore the boundaries between realism and abstraction as well as to manipulate vibrant colors. The use of light gives my art a dramatic air and a touch of mystery.”

She has had Cristina’s Web Design since 1998 so naturally, part of her job is keeping up the computers.

“I’m having a lot of fun,” she said. “I love it.”

Taking a class was Mimi’s stepdaughter, Dolly Rickerman, visiting from Colorado.

“I paint on my own at home,” she said. “I’ve been doing art since I was three years old.” Working on a large painting of a horse, she strokes on some finishing touches.

“This is my first time here. Mimi told me to get a big canvas because that’s one thing I’ve been afraid of so that is something I needed to work on. She told me, ‘You need not be a chicken!’” said Dolly, bringing laughter from everyone. “She’s helping me overcome that, which is neat because I get to explore. There’s always something new to learn.”

George Gonzalez, a retired education professor at UTPA for 20 years, has taken up painting, finishing up a portrait of Kate Winslet. Ines gives him some pointers on how to finish out her neck.

“It’s not just a school where you go and paint and that’s it. It’s also for older people who are not going to go to Pan Am to study art,” said Gonzalez. “It’s just a place where you can paint and have friends.”

They have classes and workshops. Classes are monthly and workshops are held on special days. They will have Summer Workshops for children 8 to 12 during the period June 8 to July 30, making dolls, collages, and figures from clay as well as drawing and painting. Those times will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

During the beginner workshops they will furnish the materials but students in classes must furnish their own equipment.

“We will be having national and international artists present workshops next January and February and after that,” said Mimi.

“We’re planning on adding photography classes and other things related to art,” said Ines. “We never had this before and we’re learning how to do it all so, we need to go slow.”

Currently adult and children’s classes are ongoing, although at different times. There is so much life going on at Art Studio 2008. Everyone who enters gets to explore the endless possibilities the world of art offers.

For more information call 682-6646 or go to their Web site at artstudio2008.com