Blaire Brown Stroemple, HSS & AD 2011, combined her love of art with an entrepreneurial spirit to launch Box of Art, a business that brings people together to make art while socially distancing – in the time of COVID-19 and beyond.
Box of Art is a virtual painting party business. Blaire ships the artmaking materials and hosts a virtual painting party class conducted through Zoom. “You can order a box for yourself in Baton Rouge and a box for your best friend in Dallas and paint together for a virtual girl’s night within a week of ordering,” she explained.
Given the desire to connect socially through virtual technology in the time of social distancing, the market for online art classes has increased in recent months, and more than ever people seem to be looking for ways to try new hobbies as well.
At LSU, Blaire majored with a concentration in liberal arts and art history and a minor in studio art. “I learned the most about patience and focus in my studio classes in the art building,” she said.
Blaire reflected fondly on her time at LSU: “The design building holds many memories for me. I actually met my husband in those classes. He studied digital art. We did not know it at the time, but our friendship from Dr. Walsh’s Roman Art History class would lead to marriage.”
“After graduating, I struggled to find a traditional job that held my focus like those studio classes,” she shared. “I found myself working in the service industry. To this day, I actually enjoy waiting tables. I find it sociable and fast paced. It worked great right out of college to pay bills, but lacked the sense of ownership and satisfaction that I needed.”
She realized her passion for artmaking surpassed her other career interests. “When I finish a painting, there’s a feeling that’s hard to describe and it cannot be replaced by anything else,” she said. “I knew that I needed that feeling back in my life. I decided to start my business just selling my own artwork.”
She started her brand BlaireBrownArt. “I slowly gained commissions here and there. I actually still do house portraits for local real estate agents that were my first clients years ago. My art business slowly turned into a live painting business after I tried my hand at live event painting. I also started a small business called Palettes-N-Paint. I think of Palettes-N-Paint as the predecessor of Box of Art.”
Palettes-N-Paint is a traveling painting party business. Between booking painting parties, live paintings and commissions she reached artistic financial independence, she said. “I know that the independence and confidence I gained from LSU helped me achieve this.”
“I would actually have people ask me, ‘Well what is your actual job?’ I don’t think they realized it was a little rude. They just really did not know a career as an artist was possible.”
In 2019, she married her husband. His career in film took him on a traveling path. “He is extremely supportive of my career and encourages all my new ideas. I quickly realized I needed to reinvent my business into something mobile so we could live together even when he was on the road for work.”
Then the Covid-19 pandemic swept the globe and in-person events ceased when health officials recommended social distancing. “I pushed myself to make this happen when coronavirus started. Since my ‘bread and butter’ is my live event painting business, I felt the financial burden of wedding cancellations. Instead of panicking I tried to learn from it and evolve.”
Blaire created all of the marketing material during quarantine. “I ran numbers and studied profit margins instead of gluing myself to the news. I slowly ordered my materials and before I knew it, I had the capability to run the business. I always know when I’m ready to do something because I can see it from start to finish. I saw the full circle and knew it was time.”
Box of Art offers group and private classes for adults and kids, with themes including abstract painting, sweet tea, or unicorns. The slogan is “Paint together, miles apart.” Blaire takes pride in having evolving her businesses to meet the demands of the current world, while offering people a way to connect and find solace in making art.
To art students aspiring to make a living from their passions, Blaire encourages them to try. “Realizing that failure is ok will allow you to fearlessly try new things,” she said. “I do not believe that everyone is meant to thrive in a traditional work environment. Sometimes people need to make their own work.”
“You can have a career as an artist.”