Andrea Levanti and Diego Fleitas believe that art heals all, whether it is stress, self doubt, anxiety or any other afflictions. They want to bring a peaceful community to those who appreciate art, but especially to those who are new to it.
That’s why the Rainier residents, who co-own InGenius! Gallery & Boutique in Yelm, host art classes supporting and encouraging beginners and anyone who has ever been told that they have no artistic talent. Their classes include painting in acrylics, watercolor and 3D oil painting, among others.
“Brené Brown [professor, author and researcher] coined the term ‘art scar’ and said that people who will never touch any form of art again always make the joke about ‘I can’t even draw a stick figure,’ or ‘that’s all I can draw,’ and that’s just not true,” Levanti said. “There’s so many reasons why people pull away from art, but we’re hoping to heal. Healing is a really big underlying focus for us.”
On Friday, Sept. 29, InGenius! hosted a “paint and sip” class in which Levanti guided 10 students step-by-step in painting their own acrylic harvest moon landscape. Students were treated to wine and snacks as they created their artwork, starting with the background and finishing with the finer details of the moon’s surface.
Levanti teaches three of these one-off classes per month and chooses a subject to paint based on what her students are interested in painting.
“We’re basically creating as people say what they want. I create the painting to accommodate what they want,” Levanti said. “These classes weren’t something we initially planned to do, but we realized that the paint and sip seemed like a good way to introduce people to different art forms in a setting that is pretty inspiring. They’re getting more and more popular.”
InGenius!, which opened its doors in June of 2021, is growing more popular as a whole, Levanti said. She said it was tough for the business, 207 First St. S, in Yelm, to spread the word about events and classes during the COVID-19 pandemic, but business is booming right now. Their acrylic painting class on Friday sold out before one person had to miss the class.
“We feel it suddenly happening now, in terms of the Yelm community embracing us. I feel like we’re hitting a critical mass or something,” Levanti said. “There’s enough word of mouth about the experiences that people are having when they come here, and I think it’s rooted in the classes because I think that’s the most important thing right now.”
Another goal of InGenius! is to support local artists. The boutique and gallery displays and sells more than 40 local artists’ works, from stone and wood sculptures, fused glass art, original paintings, print reproductions and photography. It also offers a selection of Yelm Water Tower, Mount Rainier and various Pacific Northwest souvenirs.
InGenius! Gallery & Boutique is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and by appointment. Those interested in attending a class are encouraged to visit the InGenius! website at ingeniusyelm.com.