There’s an old proverb that says, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” For Rosie Snow Voulgaris and Liz Raymond, co-founders of 2 Blue Hens, this couldn’t be more accurate. When the pandemic moved schooling online, services for special education students also went virtual. Voulgaris, whose son has special needs, found online therapy for a toddler to be completely ineffective, so she created something herself. She was intrigued by the concept of sensory play and how it could impact students with developmental disabilities. Voulgaris discovered that sensory play improved her son’s fine and gross motor skills, added to his speech development and helped him regulate his body. “As a family, it was quite life-changing,” says Voulgaris.
Emboldened by this initial success, Voulgaris, who was living in Virginia at the time, launched her own outdoor sensory play art classes. “It was a safe way to engage kids during a time when there wasn’t a lot of that available,” says Voulgaris.
In 2021, Voulgaris and her family moved to Ridgefield and her realtor connected her with Liz Raymond. The two had an instant connection. Both women, mothers to six children between them, have artistic backgrounds. Additionally, both attended the University of Delaware, whose mascot is the fighting blue hen.
They collaborated and launched 2 Blue Hens, initially offering classes in their homes. By the summer of 2022, they were looking for an indoor space and they opened the art room on 80 Grove Street. “I’ve always dreamed of opening an art studio. We live in this town that values and celebrates the arts, but there wasn’t much available for the younger set, to allow them to explore the creative process” says Raymond.
The studio consists of two rooms – one which is dominated by a fun, colorful mural and the other overlooks a babbling brook. “We love this space because the sound of the water is so calming,” says Voulgaris.
They currently offer about 20 classes per week, as well as monthly family sessions and weekend birthday parties, serving students ages 1 – 10. “We want kids of all abilities to join any class, but we also offer sensory friendly classes for students that need a smaller class size with less stimulation,” says Voulgaris. While many students are from Ridgefield, some come from as far as Westchester. “There really isn’t any other art studio like ours in the area,” says Raymond.
The unique format of their classes emphasizes an open-ended and child-led approach. “Our focus is help children express themselves artistically rather than developing technical skills,” says Raymond. Classes for younger children offer up to six different multi-sensory stations, such as a dry sensory bin, a collaborative project, or a messy sensory station. Older children learn to use a wide variety of art materials in nontraditional ways that are meaningful to them. “We want to show parents that this is a new way to interact and play with their children,” says Voulgaris.
Recently, 2 Blue Hens hosted a gallery opening and auction at the RPAC Art Gallery. Featured was artwork created by 1 to 4-year-old students over a six-week period. Each class of had their own canvas and created a stunning art piece “These large canvases were created using anything but a paintbrush. They threw paint covered balls, smacked watercolor soaked sponges and even sat and scooted across the canvas,” says Voulgaris. Proceeds were donated to Ridgefield’s special education RISE program to purchase materials.
For more information, please visit 2bluehens.com •