Skip to main content

Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Does Your Kid Love to Dance? Sing? Draw?

Family Life: What does Art and Soul School of Creative and Performing Arts offer?

Lauren Kushins, co-owner: We teach art, music, and dance to students as young as 18 months all the way through adults.

FL: What brought you to this work? What was your motivation?

LK: In the beginning, I was inspired by a Viennese artist named Friedensreich Hundterwasser. He had an art house in Vienna, Austria…and when I was in college I set out to create a healing arts center inspired by it. So that was my focus a long, long time ago. I have been teaching my whole life. My parents are educators. My husband’s parents are educators. (My husband, Benjie, is co-owner of Art & Soul.) Benjie and I have backgrounds in education. I also have a background in social work, which was the basis of my approach. Along the way, I decided I wanted to go into education—and I call education, prevention. If kids have the tools of art—music, art, or dance, any kind of art form—when they hit something hard in life, they can use [those tools] to help them.

FL: How has your approach been received?

LK: We have had so many success stories in the 18 years we have been in business. Parents will tell us, “Our kid had been having a hard time, and now all they want to do is practice guitar; all they want to do is draw; all they want to do is dance.” There are so many stories of parents telling us things like that. And that is really our goal, for kids to grow, not go to Juilliard (though we have some talented artists in our bunch).

FL: What would you say is the key to your business?

LK: Our teachers. They really create fabulous relationships with our students. And those relationships are the heart of who we are. We had a studio in Santa Rosa and in Windsor, but due to COVID, we lost our Santa Rosa school. We decided to let go of it instead of losing any of our teachers. We were able to keep all of them.

FL: Besides the loss of the Santa Rosa school, what other ways has COVID affected your business?

LK: We lost all of our dance students at first. Our dance enrollment went down to zero at one point. We are now up to 50 percent enrollment in our dance program. We got students back one at a time; it was hard work. We are back in-person with dance, but we are outside, on our patio. With our art, we are pretty much back to 50 percent enrollment. We were doing some of our classes inside, but with the new shelter-in-place order, all of our art and music classes went back onto Zoom. And we have moved our winter camp outside, too.

FL: So what is the protocol for the in-person dance classes?

LK: We have an outdoor check-in, where hand sanitizer is available. Everybody has their temperature checked when they come in. The dancers each have a 10’ x 10’ square that they dance in. When they are in their square, they can take off their mask. When they leave their square to go back to their parents, they have to put their masks back on. And teachers never take off their masks.

FL: How are you producing dance performances?

LK: The performances are all virtual, though we record individual performances in-person. We have a huge green screen outside where we record everyone’s performances one at a time. When it’s done, it looks like a group is performing. It’s a lot of coordination. We do something similar for virtual music recitals.

FL: When county restrictions lighten up, how will procedures change at the school?

LK: When the county allows us to hold in-person classes again, everything will be COVID-safe. We are super creative. Music lessons will be held in a huge dance room, where we will hang shower curtains to serve as dividers. When students do a voice lesson, there will be shower curtains hanging between student and teacher. For in-person art classes, there will be plexiglass dividers set up at students’ desks. 

Art and Soul School of Creative & Performing Arts is located at 9064 Brooks Road South in Windsor. For more information, visit