Art Classes for kids in Totland Park, located in beautiful Berkeley, California.

For summer camp, vacation camp, workshops and adult classes, visit the Westside Studio website.

YAWS was born in a derelict building in Totland Park, one of the city’s most loved playgrounds, when Jennifer Burke saw its potential as a thriving art center. In 1998 she won a grant from the city of Berkeley to beautify the neglected space. Her vision was a community mural created by the children and parents who made the park their second home. Dozens of families piled into the building to come up with a theme for the mural. The overwhelming consensus was to paint the dull-brown cinderblock structure with the neighborhood’s natural habitat. From stories told by locals, Jennifer learned that the area had originally been a bog, and consisted of apple orchards and a single farmhouse. These accounts gave Jennifer and the children the imagery in which to paint: a pond teaming with frogs, turtles, and dragonflies, raccoons skulking, striped cats lurking, butterflies hovering over sunflowers, squirrels racing among the sturdy branches of apple trees, crows circling, a cobalt blue sky topped by a Van Gogh-inspired sun and clouds. Morning on the north-facing wall, noon on the center, night on the south.

The building was a centerpiece of beauty in the neighborhood—evidence of the creative drive of regular people. Inside it remained a dusty, unused closet. Why not, Jennifer thought, foster the artistic promise of these people and establish an art program within the structure itself? A slew of hard-won grants allowed Jennifer to gut the inside and transform it into a vibrant studio for art-making. Students from U.C. Berkeley, park-goers, and friends put in weeks of volunteer work. A year later, the building was bustling with paint-covered children happily creating dynamic artwork, and Jennifer and her assistants were running The Young Artists Workspace (YAWS).

Now a decade later, any curious park-goer who peers into YAWS’ windows will see a well-used art studio full of students engrossed in their creative process, or on off hours, walls bursting with displays of their vivacious artwork. The mural has faded in spots, and some of the wooden animals have fallen from their posts, but the energy of the young artists who work inside could not be more alive.