By Pamela Dozois
The Santa Ynez Valley seems to exude an irresistible charm that attracts people from far and wide.
Halina Wyluda-Kazmierczak is one of those people. She is the owner of Art First Studio in Solvang.
Halina, which she prefers to be called because her last name is so difficult to pronounce, is initially from Torun, Poland. She attended the Nicolaus Copernicus University and studied fine art, specializing in art education.
“My interest has always been in art. I seem to have been born artistic. As a very young child I was always drawing and winning awards, so attending art school was a natural for me,” she said.
Halina met her husband, Jaroslaw Kazmierczak, in Gdansk, Poland, and married him after graduating from university. The couple immediately immigrated to Toronto, Canada, where they lived for 25 years.
“I ran an art school in Toronto called ‘Impression School of Art’ for 10 years, teaching art to young students, so when we moved to the valley I decided to open a little art gallery, ‘Art First Studio,’ in Solvang in November 2018,” she said.
Halina’s art hangs in the front section of the gallery. In the rear she teaches art classes to preschoolers through adults. She also holds many workshops for tourists, for a whole family or in mother-daughter or father-son classes. Classes range from 1 hour for children and 2 hours for adults. The workshops run for 2 ½ hours. Store hours vary depending on class schedules. She also sells a line of paint called Mineral Paint Fusion, which she uses to refurbish old furniture.
“You can come with your friends or family members and have fun and be creative,” she said.
“It was difficult to adjust to living in Toronto at first, coming from Poland. My English was very poor and I was self-conscious about it. My focus at that time was to have a family, which proved to be very difficult. It took us 10 years before it happened,” she said.
“We tried everything under the sun to get pregnant, even going as far as visiting shamans in Ontario and to the Philippines. I was desperate, but nothing worked,” said Halina. “I had to let my dream of having a family go, so I decided to return to school to acquire my post graduate degree in multimedia design, which was a new field at the time.
“No sooner did I start the program that I discovered I was pregnant. My baby was born on the day I graduated. I received not only my degree but I got the best gift I could ever dream of, a daughter we named Kalina. Then three years later I had another girl, Amelia, which came as a big surprise, considering I thought my first child was a miracle baby and I was told that in all likelihood I would not be able to have another child.”
After Amelia started kindergarten, Halina was able to start teaching art, at first in her basement. Then she opened her own studio in Port Credit, on the outskirts of Toronto, and enjoyed her studio for almost 10 years.
“I had 100 students there and we had a huge annual art show featuring the work of all my students,” Halina explained. “We chose one picture from each student and displayed them in the biggest gallery in Ontario, called Harbour Gallery in Clarkson. The event was always a huge success.”
“My husband’s career with Microsoft then took us to Los Gatos, California, in 2015 where we lived for three years until moving to the valley,” she said.
“We were living in Silicon Valley and my daughter was starting school at UCSB. One day we came to visit Solvang and I fell completely in love with the town and told my husband that I wanted to move here. He was surprised at first but it took only a year to find a house in Santa Ynez and we absolutely love it. We made the move in the summer of 2018.
“My husband presently works for Google specializing in artificial intelligence and quantum computing, which is an exploding industry in Santa Barbara at the moment,” she added.
Although newcomers to the valley, Halina and her family have settled in nicely. The past year she taught art at the Solvang Elementary Afterschool Program and had many students. By the end of the school year she taught four classes a week. Her classes became very popular and continue to be again this year.
Kalina is in her third year at UCSB and Amelia is a senior at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School.
Halina also refurbishes or “up-cycles” used furniture, does custom painting of furniture, and also does portrait painting.
Art First Studio is at 444 First St. in Solvang.