Nichole Kluth was a busy mom with no artistic training when, one day in 2014, she attended her first paint party.

The experience changed her life. From that moment, she began to embrace art. Later, she attended art school and started a new profession as a painter. Today, her paintings — portraits filled with powerful imagery, color and sometimes messages of hope — are big sellers and her client list is growing.

Hoping to encourage the next generation of artists, two years ago Kluth opened an art school, Divine Art Institute in Casa Grande, showing aspiring artists, including children, teens and adults how to follow their artistic dreams.

“Divine Art Institute is a safe place for people to come and do art and be creative,” Kluth said. “Being creative can be therapeutic and fun. But we also show our students how they can operate within their gift and make a living.”

Every Saturday morning, kids ages 8 to 12 meet at Divine Art Institute on Florence Boulevard for a 90-minute session that focuses on the basics of drawing and art. Later in the morning, teens ages 13 to 18 take the same program, tailored to their age. Adults meet for drawing class in the afternoon. Kluth leads each class, sharing the secrets and strategies she learned in art school.

“Artists don’t have to be starving artists,” she said. “I’m not afraid to share the secrets and tips I learned and use. The more we can share these skills and techniques, the more these students will progress and find their creative freedom.”

Since turning her attention to art in 2015, Kluth has taught all age levels to paint and draw, including toddlers and retired adults.

Divine Art Institute offers short one-day classes as well as three-day workshops for drawing and painting, teaching attendees traditional and contemporary methods. Kluth also offers longer proficiency programs to aspiring artists, meeting weekly to help them develop as artists. Private lessons, private group events and parties are also offered.

Home-schooled students are a big part of Kluth’s clientele at Divine Art Institute. The program gives students who learn at home the opportunity to connect with other students while building basic artistry skills. Each month, students in the home-school art program work on a different medium, whether it’s drawing, painting or other art forms.

She also offers proficiency courses for students in public school who want to focus their artistic training beyond a school-based art class.

“Kids come in here excited and passionate to learn,” Kluth said. “Teaching is something I appreciate and enjoy. Rather than doing small, private lessons, I thought I’d open a school where students can gather together and learn.”

Kluth designed Divine Art Institute after a series of courses she took soon after attending the painting party.

“I took a 20-hour-a-week, 11-month program,” she said. “By the middle of the program, I was selling my paintings, which paid my way through school and allowed me extra income to travel.”

Her goal in opening Divine Art Institute was to teach newbie artists various methods and techniques with an affordable program, and also showing them how they too could make money from their art.

“There was nothing like this in Pinal County,” Kluth said. “I created a simplified school based on the training I took.”

While Divine Art Institute offers short programs, its semester-long programs are also popular, giving those interested in art a chance to hone their skills and take their abilities to the next level. Each semester, the school’s long-term program attracts about 25 students.

“We have people come from north Mesa or Tempe as well as from throughout Pinal County,” Kluth said. “I have a great group of students.”

Kluth juggles art and teaching with a busy home life. She has four children and is married to Eric Kluth, a pastor at Calvary Chapel and manager of KVNG radio station.

And while she’s now passionate about art, she says she wasn’t always an artist. She has a bachelor’s degree in business and worked a full-time job for many years. After she decided to focus on art, she returned to school, later graduating from the Mastery Program at the Milan Art Institute. She is classically trained in both drawing and painting.

Her paintings “are enveloped by vibrant color, intricate layers of texture, pattern, shape and a message that goes so much deeper than the layers of canvas. It reveals a message of hope, passion and zeal; exposing the heart of the viewer to the lies that once weighed them down and encourages the viewer to see themselves for who they really are: the victor,” her artist statement on her website said.

Kluth said she recognizes the need for art in the community, especially among young people.

Through Divine Art Institute, one of her goals is to help the art created by young people become more integrated in the community. She regularly hosts open houses at Divine Art Institute in which her students show and sell their work. “I’m so excited for these kids when they sell a painting or a drawing,” she said.

She’s also working with local businesses to find places for her students to hang their work or paint murals. Some of her students’ works can be found hanging in a Casa Grande bicycle shop.

In March, she opened Divine Art Institute to the public as part of the annual Casa Grande Art Association Artist Studio Tour, inviting people in to look around and see artists at work.

“I want to do whatever I can to support young artists,” she said.

More information about Divine Art Institute is online at Divineartinstitute.com. PW

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.

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