Using arts to revolutionize child care
by Heather Senison
Apr 17, 2012 | 457 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After launching a small business in a close-knit community in Brooklyn, Kristina Wilson is changing the way parents view child care.

Her company, Sitters Studio, incorporates the arts into baby-sitting and daycare, creating a branch of sitters aside from the common nanny.

Babysitters at Sitters Studio, called “Artisitters,” include visual artists, singers, dancers and musicians. Parents can request an Artisitter from a specific arts field through the company.

They work with kids, from babies to young teenagers, on art projects, help them practice their musical instruments, or take them to dance lessons.

Wilson said it is important for children to use art at an early age because it helps them develop motor skills and teaches them using a system other than pass/fail or right/wrong.

“It's a method of learning that is not attached to right and wrong, which is really important especially when you're developing,” she said. “It allows you to think outside the box.”

Wilson added that the arts help kids explore their creativity, and learn how to start and finish a project, which builds confidence.

“You learn how to learn and you learn how to explore,” she said.

In addition to providing daycare at the company's two Brooklyn-based locations, Sitters Studio also provides child care programs at weddings, corporate parties and other events.

The sitters will use any available rooms to keep kids occupied while their guardians attend a function, Wilson said.

“And then the kids can come and see Grandma, but then come back into the room with us and do arts and games,” she said.

Originally from Chicago, Wilson worked as a babysitter to help pay bills while attending New York University for music. She worked for a family alongside a full-time nanny, helping the kids with their homework while the nanny cooked and cleaned, creating a dynamic partnership between the two sitters.

Later, she returned to New York as an aspiring actress after receiving her Master's degree in Oklahoma, and landed a job at Morgan Stanley.

“I started to notice executives all the time complaining that they didn't have sitters,” Wilson said.

So she brought an idea to start an arts-based baby-sitting service to her boss at Morgan Stanley, who helped her develop a business plan and continues to mentor her today, she said.

“There's clearly a need for a job that supports the arts,” Wilson said of why she started her business. “Conversely, there's this huge need for sitters.”

Sitters Studio daycare is based out of Chicago and two Carroll Gardens locations: the Cassatt Studio on Third Street, one block from the Carroll Street subway stop; and the Bela Studio, at President and Hicks streets.

Artisitters serve most of the greater New York City region, going as far as the Hamptons and Westchester, although families who live more than roughly an hour from mid-town Manhattan are asked to pay travel expenses.

Wilson said she chose Brooklyn as the day care's home base because of its population of young artistic families.

“I think it's something thats intrinsic to the heartbeat of what Brooklyn is,” she said. “We knew we would find people who would appreciate our kind of arts-based care.”

However, running a small business in Brooklyn is not without its challenges, Wilson added. Along with the plethora of opportunities to get parking tickets, Wilson had to win her landlord and the neighborhood over with her idea before she could establish a launching site, she said.

“People really know each other in Brooklyn, you have to make sure that people want you as part of their community,” Wilson said. “We had to find landlords who believed in us.”

However, she added, “once you're in, it's the most loving community that you could be a part of.”

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