Featured Image: With the help of her family, including her pet dog Oscar, Parisian art instructor Claire Kavaya will soon open her new Side Street Art Studio on Avenida Cabrillo. Photo: C. Jayden Smith
By C. Jayden Smith
Adding to the legacy of art in the beach cities area, the new Side Street Art Studio, located at 205 Avenida Cabrillo in San Clemente, looks to change students’ perceptions of the art they can create.
Claire Kavaya, a Dana Point resident and the studio’s owner, has spent decades in the Parisian art world and is excited to bring her knowledge to the community.
“I’m just hoping to teach just like I did in Paris, and to try to make people happy, and that they come out of the studio with a painting they’re proud of,” she said.
From the age of 12, Kavaya knew her dream job was to teach art to adults in a studio and worked hard to achieve her goal.
She first fell in love with the United States after spending three years at a French school in Houston, Texas, before moving back to Paris, where she grew up and has spent most of her life. Kavaya later graduated from high school, studied at a preparatory school, and spent five years at the Beaux-Arts de Paris art school before graduating at 24 years old.
After finding freelance work to help open and teach in a new studio in the city’s 15th Arrondissement, or district, the gig turned into a 13-year stay that Kavaya loved.
“I told myself the very first class, that’s where I belong,” she said. “That’s what I was meant to do, and I was very comfortable in it.”
Years later, she met her husband, Peter, who played professional hockey in France in 2018. The two visited Peter’s hometown of San Clemente that summer, and Kavaya got her first taste of the city.
Her husband was forced to move back to town to find work after COVID-19 hit, and Kavaya was especially excited to move to the U.S. once again. She bought the San Clemente studio from its previous owner with the intention of redoing everything with the help of her father-in-law, Steve, who retired from a career in the construction industry.
However, the pandemic drew out the process of obtaining a green card for more than two years. She finally made her way to San Clemente earlier in August, with the studio nearly ready to open thanks to her parents-in-law’s help.
“I’m glad I also took three weeks to really settle in, and now I think I will be ready after the opening to welcome the students and start working,” Kavaya said of the time she took to rest following her overseas flight.
She added that she does not plan on revolutionizing the process of learning to draw and paint, but, rather, to pass on her high-level learning as best she can. Specifically, she will walk students through painting and drawing freehand, and training people to recapture what they see with their eyes instead of copying or relying on a grid on a canvas.
Her main strength, she said, is making people comfortable in the studio environment, which she has used in her Paris days to help beginners who feared they were not talented enough to create art.
“I’m the one who needs to adapt my advice to people,” Kavaya said. “I know that what people have told me over the years is that they’re really grateful because I always encourage.”
Although full of structured, methodological learning, she will look to provide an environment with music and “good vibes,” where people can make new friends and chat during classes.
The only rules? Never talk about politics, and never say “I can’t.”
The studio opened in early September. Kavaya offers oil painting and drawing classes from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays through Saturdays.
C. Jayden Smith
C. Jayden Smith graduated from Dana Hills High in 2018 before pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in digital and broadcast journalism from the University of North Texas. After graduating in December 2020, he reported for the Salina Journal in Salina, Kansas. Jayden loves college football and bothering his black lab named Shadow.