They finish each other’s sentences and feed off each other’s energy. But the owners and instructors of are a study in contrast. Bronwyn Birk is loquacious and full of energy. Maria Galloway is a little more reserved, a little more focused on organization. One prefers smoother style when she paints, the other more texture. However, the two women, who opened Virdian a little over a year ago, have one big thing in common: They trust each other.
“We kind of balance each other out,” Birk said. “We have such a strong working dynamic and the kids can see that. It just works well. I trust her as a teacher.”
Born and bred in the Valley, both women have worked together in the past and are teachers at local schools. When Galloway, who had been considering opening an art school for some time, finally decided to take the plunge, she said she knew exactly who she wanted by her side.
“She called me up and said, “I really want to do it, let’s just do it” and I was like, “Okay, let’s just do it,” Birk said. “We’ve worked with other people before I don’t think either of us have ever worked with someone where it was this easy.”
The pair wanted their school to be affordable and fun, but also something that would give kids and adults a good foundation in art.
“We feel like we’ve fill a niche that wasn’t there before,” Birk said. “We don’t want to be too serious with it, but we also want to make sure they’re learning and gaining drawing skills and painting skills along the way.”
“One of our biggest factors was also making sure that it was affordable, a lot of the art schools are not affordable for the average family, especially when you’re sending two to three kids,” Galloway said.
Despite the economy, they said they have been doing well.
“Classes are full, they were full a few months in actually,” Galloway said.
“Between the two of us, we probably know 1,000 kids in the Valley, so it wasn’t like we were starting from nothing. People already knew us and trusted us in the area, if we didn’t have that, it would have been scarier,” Birk added.
Birk and Galloway said, especially with the budget cuts in the arts at school, it’s important to make sure kids still have creative outlets like art.
“It’s a huge source of self-confidence for kids, a lot come in and look at some of the drawing and say, ‘that’s so cool, I could never do that,’ then, after they do, they’re like, ‘oh my god, I can’t believe I did this,’” Birk said. “You really do use a different side of your brain when you’re doing art, it’s so just relaxing and the kids feel that.”
They said when they teach adults, they experience similar rewards.
“One of our adult students said to us, ‘well it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than therapy,” Birk said, laughing.
As they keep moving forward, the pair says they want to continue to grow Viridian.
“We would like to be at the point where we have a bigger space with multiple classes going on so an adult class could happen as a children’s class is going on,” Birk said.
They said they couldn’t be happier with what they’re doing.
” Even though we’re probably, in a way, working harder, it doesn’t seem like we are, we’re the ones making decisions on what we’re doing, how to run this, and it’s completely worth it,” Birk said. “We’re doing what we’ve always been doing, teaching, having fun and more and more people are coming in, it’s been great.”
,18356 Oxnard Street, Tarzana. Tel: 818-774-0775.