The Art Lab relaxes guests amidst COVID-19

The Art Lab relaxes guests amidst COVID-19
The last time I had colored something was with a crayon in primary school so when renowned creative Loretta Mekgwe invited me to her creative space called The Art Lab, I didn’t hesitate to honour the invitation.

For a person who is an avid lover of visual arts, I figured it was about time I got my creative juices flowing with Mekgwe’s fantastic art experience. My colleague, Moreri Sejakgomo and I were quite impressed to see how Mekgwe has set up the lab at her home garage in Phakalane.

Many artists struggle to find the space they need to create,  but Mekgwe’s creative space is a professional hub. Firstly, it is not cramped so there is no way the place can have a negative impact on one’s creativity and productivity.

From easels to tables with brushes and colour pencils in jars, The Art Lab is so therapeutic. Mind yo,u she has also adhered to the COVID-19 regulations.

The Art Lab has a number of arts activities that are perfect for anyone. As I began colouring the pattern I was given, I realised that creating such patterns allowed my brain to promote a feeling of peace and focus on the present moment, essential during this trying time of COVID-19.

It was quite a relaxing afternoon to enjoy the art and music. Mekgwe told us that she mostly played soothing music from local songbird Mpho Sebina.

One thing I liked about the session was that there was no experience needed. Mekgwe simply provided everything one ne ed like paper, pencil, canvas, paint, brushes and other items.

She even offered a light snack and a glass of wine.

After taking a couple of pictures, Sejakgomo joined in and being a perfectionist he applied his colours systematically instead of throwing them around like I did. 

I observed that it helped him to discover his inner artist because he kept criticising mine.

I saw that the supremacy of colour in my work was quite excessive. My use of rich colours and Sejakgomo’s delicate details helped us to both learn different modes of creativity and collaboration. I interview fine artists for a living, but I realised that there is nothing that compares to doing an artwork with one’s own hands.

I have seen great artists’ hands engraving artistic flesh on that canvas but getting to do it myself is somewhat beyond words.

We eventually finished our session and the best part was that we got to take home our work of art. Mind you, Mekgwe also provides painting experience and if it wasn’t because of time, I would have loved to spread that paint on the canvas.

Now let’s shift the focus to the main woman herself. One of her goal is to encourage children’s creativity through developmentally appropriate art experiences.

For these children, she provides step-by-step

instructions, helping them turn a blank canvas into a final piece of personalized art in a few hours. Mekgw,e in partnership with the Tlholego’s Foundation, recently hosted a skills transfer and empowerment event with children in Motshegaletau and the latter were taught life skills and art lessons.

By gazing at Mekgwe’s artworks inside The Art Lab, one can see that she is quite ardent about art and believes that everyone can create lasting, meaningful works of art.

Mekgwe told Arts & Culture in an interview that she started The Art Lab this year in February but it was conceptualised last year after her participation in The Francistown Arts Meeting.

“It was the first time interacting with other artists I didn’t know and I was there as guest exhibitor alongside Wilson Ngoni among others,” she said. Mekgwe said she saw a gap because there was a lot of information exchange between experts and upcoming artists. “So I thought why not come up with something for everyone not just artists. Here, I teach children as young as five and I use the same tutorials I gave my daughter when she was two-years-old. Art is something that you can nurture from a very young age,” she revealed.

Mekgwe said children are her friendliest customers and easiest to work with because they are always eager to learn.

“Another thing that amazes me is the speed.

They are so fast. This art also helps with motor skills, the more they come to the class the more they relax,” she gladly said. 

Mekgwe said The Art Lab’s first home was a rented space in Phase 2, Gaborone but she moved because of COVID-19 challenges.

Mekgwe said the reason she came up with the colouring session was because a lot of people were afraid of painting.

“There is that fear of brush and paint, so adding coloring helped assuage people getting intimidated by paint,” she added. She said she wants people to come and release work stress on the paper or canvas.

The coloring session is P250 each while monthly subscription of four sessions costs P800.

Each session comes with a glass of wine and a snack. The main painting session costs P350 per person from Tuesday to Thursday. On weekends it costs P400 because of the demand. 

The Art Lab is open from 11am to 6:30pm. They also do retreats, team building sessions and a COVID-19 staff relief packages on offer for corporate. Bookings can be made at 72551022.




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