Color Guam, Art Studio & Entertainment
197 Hernan Cortes Avenue A-3
By Steve Graff
Art has been a passion of Taliea Strohmeyer’s ever since high school. “We did a lot of different types: mixed media, block printing, painting, drawing and weaving,” she says. “I just fell in love with it.” Today, she’s the owner of Color Guam Art Studio and Entertainment, a 1,400-square-foot art studio in Hagåtña behind Mosa’s Joint, where kids and adults now learn from her in art workshops, camps and painting parties.
The Art Institute of Seattle graduate first worked as a graphic designer on the island for many years, while selling her own paintings on the side, and even took a six-month sabbatical in Florence, Italy to study art. “I just wanted to go away and paint,” she says.
In 2015, Strohmeyer started Color Guam, holding ceramic and glass painting classes at the Guma’ Tasa coffee shop in Mangilao, which led to canvas painting sessions at Port of Mocha and the Hyatt Regency Guam. “And then we started getting calls asking if we could do parties,” she says. “That’s when I started thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I need to get a space.’”
Six months later, Color Guam opened its studio.
Your business grew over time as more people expressed interest. How did the studio come to be?
We had to do “Coffee and Canvas” [nights] to see first if it was profitable for us to even open our own studio. [With] all that money I was getting from all the sessions at coffee shops, I would just start purchasing easels, more canvases and whatever supplies we needed, prior to moving into the space. I didn’t want to take out a loan. I read so many articles on opening a small business, and I read one from Mark Cuban that said the best thing to do is to raise your own capital. So that’s what [my husband Thomas and I] did.
We were smart about making sure overhead costs weren’t really high. We only had tables and chairs and a few paintings. We advertised on social media and then it started growing.
The doors opened two years ago this July. What does the studio offer today?
Our summer camp for this year is a full day (for children ages 4 to 14). Parents can sign up for a full week or they can sign up for half days for a full week or they can sign up daily. We do everything from painting on canvas to calligraphy to printing, Styrofoam printing and also water colors. We also teach a history lesson on Guam’s historical sites.
We have a book called “Explore, Learn and Color Guam” that we wrote. When I was growing up, my parents never really took us to the historical sites. My husband is a really big history buff and we would take the kids to … different sites and read about the history.
One day, I thought, “I don’t even know if we have one like this for kids.” So we partnered with Guampedia and worked with them to get the history on Guam, based on all these different sites, and then I did all the illustrations and put the book together. It’s in English, Chamorro and Japanese.
And you do painting parties for adults and kids?
Yes, it’s bachelorettes; it’s showers for wedding and for babies. It’s birthdays, team building.
We’ve also worked with [Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities Agency]. We were awarded some money so we could work with [kids with special needs]. Last year, we worked with autistic kids and kids with Down syndrome. And we’ve worked with the senior citizens on Guam … and with foster kids.
Does Color Guam get tourists?
We are actually working with LeoPalace Resort [Guam] and doing their summer program from July to August. They have bussed their tourists here [in the past]. We’ve had about 40 of their guests come. And we’ve worked with Blue Pacific Tours.
We would like to build the tourist aspect of the business because we pretty much have a grasp [on the local market]. It’s a great opportunity for them to paint something of Guam and bring it home with them.
There are similar art studios on the island. What makes Color Guam stand out?
For me, what stands out about our studio is really our staff. That’s because every single one of them has a degree in art. They are not just doing it because they can paint a sunset. Our staff members not only go through training here, but they have degrees in art. And that’s what we look for. Because there is really no sense in having somebody coming to work here who doesn’t know anything about art or can’t help a customer who needs to draw something.
It’s not easy being an instructor here because you have to have customer service training and deal with kids. And all of our instructors are first aid, CPR and AED certified.
How many employees do you have?
Four. They are all graduates of the University of Guam.
What are some of the challenges of running an art studio on Guam?
One of the challenges that we have had is pricing. Sometimes people think it’s expensive, but when you look at nationally, in the states, that’s how much they really charge: it’s $35 to $40 for a 16-inch by 20-inch canvas … for a two to three hour [painting] lesson, for example.
I [also] think the hardest thing is really just getting supplies, because we have to order everything from off island. But that’s what keeps our costs down. We still purchase supplies from a [company on Guam], but the bulk of our orders come from the mainland.
What are you most proud of?
Our growth and that we have survived the two years.
We have other plans for the studio that we haven’t announced yet. In October, I am going to Texas to [visit a] Color Me Mine [location], which is a pottery place where you walk in and there are different types of blank pottery, plates, cups, piggy banks for the kids or other gifts. That’s what we are looking at, come November, to bring to the studio. So we are expanding. Painting is great, and I love it. But I think at some point we thought we need to expand, and we need to bring in other products. We are ready for that.
Any advice for artists looking to start a business?
Create a business a plan. I think the most important aspect of the business plan is the [financial part]. Everybody likes that part in the beginning where you are talking about marketing and planning all that stuff, where you are going to get your materials. You get excited about it. But the financial part is way more important than that section of the plan.
That was something I had to learn. I didn’t know that in my 20s and didn’t start leaning until my 30s.