You could say that sisters Anna Vergos Blair and Katherine Vergos Riederer have been in business together from day one. After all, both of their maiden names are Vergos, as in the Memphis barbecue icon that is Charlie Vergos’s Rendezvous. The sisters have always worked in the family business, so it was no surprise that they just might open a venture together as adults.

Katherine Vergos Riederer and Anna Vergos Blair created a space where kids AND adults can let their creativity flow.

Sisters Katherine Vergos Riederer and Anna Vergos Blair created a space where kids AND adults can let their creativity flow.

Glitter was the catalyst behind The Art Project, their Overton Square walk-in creative space the sisters opened in July 2015. Glitter … as in the shiny, can’t-ever-clean-it-all-up, gets-everywhere art supply that is the bane of mothers everywhere, to which Anna can attest. Her two creative toddlers just loved the stuff but she did not love the mess it left behind. Katherine, who studied at the Rhode Island School of Design and designed children’s clothing for Ralph Lauren in New York before returning home to Memphis, would have Anna’s eldest over for art projects. “I loved painting with her and she loved glitter,” laughs Katherine.

“I thought, There’s got to be somewhere they can do art,” Anna adds. “There just wasn’t.”

So, the sisters decided to make a space where kids could create art with no fear of leaving mounds of glitter — or paint or construction paper — on the floor.

The Art Project is located in the courtyard at Overton Square.

The Art Project is located in the courtyard at Overton Square.

Kids create anything they want in the huge center space at The Art Project, while parents relax in a cafe setting nearby.

Kids create anything they want in the huge center space at The Art Project while parents relax in a cafe setting nearby. Coffee, beer and snacks are available for purchase and there also are art kits and supplies for sale.

The Art Project offers art free play, as well as project-specific workshops. Children can become annual members for $200 (and $25 per child for other children in the family), which allows for unlimited free play sessions and select classes. Since the membership is connected to the child, any adult is welcome to bring them for classes or free play. Drop-ins also are welcome for all classes and free play with fees starting at $14 per session. Classes include everything from Introduction to Fashion Design to 3D Art to Art Appreciation.

Now that cooler temperatures are here, The Art Project also is taking its classes on the road to the great outdoors. From Shelby Farms to the Memphis Zoo to the Mississippi River, art counselors will meet parents outside with special sessions on sketching and watercolors. During the summer, special camps are offered for kids of all ages.

Art free play includes project ideas for kids, who can work by themselves or with a parent.

Art Free Play includes project ideas for kids who can work by themselves or with a parent.

Kids aren’t the only ones who come to play at The Art Project; there are classes geared towards adults, too, which involve a project and adult beverages. Pet portraits and local artist workshops give even the most artistically challenged adult the chance to create something wonderful.

Adult classes at The Art project include a pet painting/collage workshop, and BYO wine.

Adult classes at The Art Project include a pet painting/collage workshop — and BYO wine. Image: The Art Project

Parents have their choice of taking their child’s artwork home with them or going full-on digital, as the art counselors can take a high-resolution photo of the artwork and email it to the parent who then can create a digital portfolio that can be turned into a coffee table book — and that applies to the piles of art work parents have accumulated at home that they don’t want to throw out. “If a parent sends us a pile of art, we take high-res photos and give them back a thumb drive of JPEG files.”

And if parents want to create a holiday card or birthday party invitations, Anna and Katherine’s crew of art counselors offer that service, as well. All of the work is done right in the Overton Square studio, says Katherine, who says it is so fun to see a child’s creation turn into a thank-you note or birthday card. “They can write their message or we can type it out.”

With the holidays approaching, The Art Project just might be a parent’s secret weapon — whether as a unique party venue or gifting this season.

The Art Project is located at 2092 Trimble Place, Memphis, TN 38104. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Learn more at (901) 425-3434.

Thanks to Micki Martin for her fantastic photos of The Art Project!

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