I’m Maura O’Shea and this is our story…
The question people are always asking me is, “how did you come up with this idea?”
The Art Truck represents the culmination of my experiences and interests. I started with a desire to turn my passion for art and parties into a business that would address a need for quality celebrations and creative experiences. I’d studied painting in college, taught art to kids and adults on the east and west coasts, and worked as an educator/administrator in art museums for nearly two decades. I had a knack for working with small budgets and designing small spaces. While working in arts education and museum management, I was struck by the joy and connectivity students and museum visitors of all ages expressed while engaged in creative activities. I spent ten years developing education and interpretive programs for tens of thousands of visitors at the New Britain Museum of American Art. My love of art, art history, and artistic practice informed docent and teacher training and curriculum development, forming a natural path to The Art Truck. In 2003 I got serious about developing my idea to build an art party business that I could replicate throughout the country.
My original plans (there were quite a few incarnations over the years) called for an open studio where people of all ages would gather to make things together while celebrating birthdays and special occasions with a “menu” of hands-on activities to inspire creativity and fun. I’d provide supplies and art-tenders to facilitate projects so that guests could have fun being creative without worrying about making a mess and cleaning it up.
After directing a 2006 installation of an Art Lab for children and families at the New Britain Museum of American Art, I refined my concept to focus on offering creative birthday party solutions to busy parents with young children. The children’s birthday party market was a big space with opportunities for new products. In 2010, with my business plan and sketch book of prototypes in hand, I left my position as the museum’s Deputy Director to pursue my dream to become an “artrepreneur.”
By spring of 2011 I was close to bringing my idea to market, but facing challenges in finding the right space, specifically in converting my backyard studio into a commercial business or finding an affordable storefront location in my hometown of Glastonbury, CT. Inspired by a NYC fashion truck, a friend of mine suggested that I look into going mobile. Why not? If there’s a fashion truck there certainly could be an art truck. So, I began a (long) search for mobile models and the perfect vehicle. In May, while still searching for a mobile studio and managing two consulting jobs, I heard that one of my former employees from the New Britain Museum of American Art, Morgan Urgo, was looking for a new job. I called Morgan and asked her to join the venture.
I traded in my VW Passat for my first Ford F150, bought an 8.5’x 20’ a car hauler and Morgan and I spent a month converting the car hauler into a mobile art studio and learning how to drive it. In August we launched our mobile art studio designed to “Mobilize Creativity” by bringing artistically developed parties, events, and experiences to all types of groups at locations throughout our region. (Photos). By August, Connecticut’s first mobile art studio was ready to deliver five-star, art parties and events throughout the State.
Getting on the Map and Finding our Lane
By the end of 2011, with no marketing other than a few emails to friends who shared with friends, The Art Truck had hosted five parties. Responses were enthusiastic and we were encouraged. We spent the winter building a website, creating an email list and planning a marketing campaign to reach moms looking for quality birthday party options. But how could we reach them, introduce them to this brand new product, and convince them to buy? We launched a Living Social deal in February 2012. Web site traffic hit 4,000 views in the first three days and dozens of purchases followed. The Art Truck was on the map!
Our first party of 2012 was held at the beach in Madison, CT on a warm and sunny St. Patrick’s Day. Kids decorated flip-flops and tote bags then sported their artsy footwear while running on the beach. Within a year, more than 5,000 guest artists had enjoyed creative time on The Art Truck during birthday parties and community celebrations.
Logo, Branding, and Bricks and Mortar
2014 was a watershed year. With the prototype tested and established, and business doubling year-over-year, it was time to focus on brand development. We designed our official logo, built a new web site and began to grow our social channels. We introduced glass painting parties for adults at local wineries and venues in the area. Morgan was promoted to director of client experiences and delivered 200 five-star parties to delighted guests from towns throughout CT.
In 2015 we opened a bricks and mortar Party Studio in Glastonbury Town Center with the same menu of activities and a package that includes pizza and cupcakes. We introduced a new tagline “Create & Celebrate on our Party Truck, at our Party Studio or at your Favorite Venue.” We added staff and developed wonderful partnerships with camps and parks and recreation departments around the state and had a great time creating with thousands of kids and adults during summer 2015.
Our Creative Community
I am motivated by the belief that everyone is creative, but many of us lack the time, resources or confidence to get in touch with our creativity. For me, the best part of the past five years has been watching what unfolds when kids or adults gather around a table set with fabulous art supplies. Each party is a wonder as guests create new and wonderful artworks that express their creativity and personalities. We are so thankful to all of the fabulous moms, dads and kids who have celebrated with us and helped us grow.
2016 and Beyond
Today my focus is on designing new creative experiences for customers of all ages and expanding the business through franchising in 2016 while continuing to deliver Five Star party services with our talented team of creativity coaches throughout Connecticut.
Thanks for checking us out. I hope you’ll follow our adventures as we mobilize creativity one celebration at a time throughout the country. Join our mailing list or follow us on your favorite social channel. Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Pinterest and Instagram. We hope to celebrate with you and turn your next party into a work of art. Interested in joining our growinf team? Learn more about franchise opportunities near you.
Maura O’Shea, Owner, Creator O'Shea is an artist and educator with extensive experience in art education, museum management, management consulting, and arts entrepreneurship. Following an 18 year career in museum and arts education, O’Shea turned her focus to launching a mobile art studio designed to mobilize creativity by bringing artistic parties and events to locations throughout Connecticut. The Art Truck represents the culmination of O’Shea’s experiences and interests.
While working in arts education and museum management, O’Shea was struck by the joy and connectivity students and museum visitors of all ages expressed while engaged in creative activities. O'Shea spent ten years developing education and interpretive programs for tens of thousands of visitors at the New Britain Museum of American Art, where she was promoted to Deputy Director and Curator of Education. Her knowledge of art, art history, and artistic practice combined with twelve years of experience in docent and teacher training, classroom instruction and curriculum development formed a natural path to The Art Truck.
O’Shea was part of the NBMAA management team responsible for a major museum expansion in 2006. O'Shea was charged with designing the Museum's first interactive "Art Lab", and Art Studio while also expanding online interpretation and content for young learners. This experience helped define O’Shea’s future vision to create a similar venue in a commercial location.
An experienced grants writer and project manager, O’Shea has received numerous awards to fund arts education and conservation projects from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Met Life Foundation Museum Connections Program and numerous private foundations. She has reviewed grants for the National Endowment for the Humanities (Panelist), the Institute of Museums and Library Services (Field Reviewer). O’Shea served as a member of the Grants Committee at the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain (2008-2011). As a freelance management consultant, O'Shea works with foundations and museums on program development, project management and grant writing.
Professional awards include Arts Educator of the Year, from the New Britain Arts Alliance in 2006, a 2005 YWCA of Greater New Britain Women in Leadership Award, a 2004 Celebrate Our Communities Award from the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain CT, and a 2004 Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for services to New Britain youth. O'Shea has been a presenter at the New England Museum Association, and at libraries, community centers and professional associations throughout the state. Past community involvement includes service as President, Board of Directors of the New Britain Arts Alliance (2008-2010) and as Trustee, Mattatuck Museum, from 1993 to 1995.
O'Shea’s experience teaching painting, drawing and introductory art classes includes: The Silvermine Guild School of Art, The Farmington Valley Arts Center, The Mattatuck Museum and the Windrush School in El Cerito, California.
In 2007, O'Shea participated in a 2007 Yale-AAM Executive Seminar in Museum Management and earned a certificate in "Teaching for Understanding" from Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Project Zero in 2004. She studied painting at the Chautauqua Institute, The San Francisco Art Institute and holds a BFA from the University of Connecticut. O'Shea's artwork has been exhibited at the Gallery in the Heart of the City, New Britain, CT, CT Women Artists, April 2009; Bowery Gallery, New York City, 2001, Annual Juried Show Juror, Janet Fish, Painter; Artworks Gallery, Hartford, CT, 2000, Annual Juried Show, Juror, Judith Kim, Curator of Contemporary Art, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford CT; Exhibition Café, Waterbury, CT 1999; Pro Arts Gallery, Oakland, CA 1998; Vassos Gallery, New Canaan CT 1996, Faculty Show; Jorgensen Gallery, Storrs, CT 1995, UCONN.