MARATHON -- The owners of a new art studio in the Middle Keys say they want art to bring families together.
Sam Stephens has lived in the Florida Keys on and off for the last few years, but says he's ready to make it permanent.
Stephens serves as vice president of The Art Studio and is charged with promotions and marketing. His wife, Leah, acts as the floor manager.
"My mom has been in art for years," Stephens said.
His mother, Sheila Cook, has always wanted an art studio. She has a history of theater, pottery and painting. About a year ago, she put the studio's plan together. As its president, her goal is to help people discover their creativity.
At the 5,000-square-foot facility, patrons can create their own art. The studio also houses a party room, which can be rented for birthdays and other celebrations.
Not just going after locals, Stephens said the studio is a perfect way for sunburned tourists to relax and stay out of the heat.
"It's something they can hold onto and remember their vacation," he said. "I still have pieces from 20 years ago."
Anybody can buy trinkets from local gift shops, but art is something special, he added.
One idea is to have families come in to create their own Christmas tree ornaments. Group instruction will also be provided based on the needs of the students.
Art classes will be weekly or biweekly, based on how many people take interest. Among the classes offered are drawing, pottery coloring and clay hand-building.
"The support from the community has been so great," he said. "It really brings a tear to your eye."
Marla Kohan, a native of Pittsburgh, will serve as the studio's glass artist. Jesse Vandervoort will bring her 10 years of interior design experience to the studio's staff.
Teaching advanced pottery will be Lynn Loftus, whose work has been shown throughout the country and who has maintained her own gallery in Colorado.
"We really want to be known as a family place," Stephens said. "It's something you can do with your significant other."
For more information, visit www.keysartstudio.com.