If Open Arts Studio’s huge array of classes seems a bit eclectic, it’s partly a reflection of the diverse interests of its founder, John Armstrong. An intent student of visual arts since childhood, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in music and a master’s degree in music and classical vocal performance; today, he teaches both drawing and music classes.
Armstrong, his wife Lucy, and their staff of instructors approach learning through three key elements: technique, creativity, and fun. They use this template to cultivate skill within a noncompetitive atmosphere combined with a structured curriculum—for instance, drawing teachers use the open-arts drawing method to help kids break down objects into easily grasped curves, angles, and shapes while encouraging them to develop a unique style of their own. Artwork lines the studio’s halls, and an exhibition with cookies, juice, and coffee punctuates each session with a chance to share students’ work with friends, family, and agents looking for the next big thing in crayon drawing.
La Bella Bean, a Portland Avenue café that opened in April 2013, welcomes patrons with a convenient drive-thru and a cozy deck with outdoor seating. Baristas brew cappuccinos, mix iced mochas with flavors such as white chocolate lavender, and blend refreshing smoothies. Snacks such as dessert bars and muffins round out the menu.
The weather in the Pacific Northwest isn’t always ideal for spending time outside, which is why Java Billiards keeps daytime as well as nighttime hours. More than just a shelter from the elements, though, the all-ages pool hall stands as an emphatic answer to boredom. It invites families to sink shots on five different pool tables and rack up wins during games of checkers and foosball. Making good on the “java” part of its name, the facility’s full espresso counter brews fresh lattes and mochas and serves up smoothies and italian sodas. Perhaps most importantly, Java Billiards maintains a safe environment for all ages by not serving alcohol or advertising itself as a hangout for vampires.
Conceived in 2010 as a way to expose vibrant grassroots coffee culture to more people, Northwest Coffee Festival gathers local roasters, artisan chocolatiers, and other comestible makers for a weekend of food, drink, and demonstrations. During the two-day event, the pristinely appointed showrooms of the Seattle Design Center fill with the aroma of hot coffee, stirred by moving crowds who wander from booth to booth to witness artisans' brewing demonstrations or sample treats. In addition to coffee, the festival features beer, wine, and a holiday gift show where patrons can pick up the ideal trinket to stuff a stocking or booby-trap a sock.