Elizabeth Impastato hails from one of the most beloved families of restaurateurs in the greater New Orleans area.
And while not a professional chef herself, she does have an innate knowledge of hospitality—an ability to make people feel welcome. At the Impastato Gallery and Art Therapy, Elizabeth has created a respite where people struggling with mental, physical or emotional stressors can regain a sense of belonging.
Ever since she was a young child, Elizabeth found peace in art. Although she may have been too young to verbalize it, she knew that artistic endeavors like coloring, painting and drawing helped soothe her soul. But like most young single mothers, Elizabeth put her hobby on the back burner in order to focus on raising her two sons, Eric and Adam. When they were each diagnosed with Autism, Elizabeth once again saw the emotional benefits of visual art, this time through her children.
It wasn’t until her boys reached their teens that Elizabeth returned to painting. “It had been 20 years since I picked up a paintbrush, but once I did, it was like no time had passed at all. I quickly realized that art was more than my passion. It was my calling.”
The Impastato Gallery and Art Therapy is Elizabeth’s answer to that call. With it, she’s created a space where she can flourish as an independent painter while also providing an artistic outlet for people in the community. “There is no denying that there is a therapeutic component to art. Everyone needs to feel good and art allows people to do that.”
“We are social beings, and I wanted the gallery to be a social place where families could come to relax and have fun while experiencing a different level of creativity,” Elizabeth said.
Reminiscent of an upscale spa, every detail—from the subdued color palette and soft lighting to the soothing music and scent of lemongrass—is designed to delight the senses.
The gallery welcomes people of all ages, skill levels, interests and needs. Some classes cover fundamentals, use of color, brushstrokes and mixed media, while others focus on subject areas like New Orleans themes, nature and trees, or food and animals. There are even classes specifically for teens that help tap into their emotions and release their feelings on paper through the use of color. Monthly membership packages are available, along with individual and private lessons upon request.
“We can accommodate beginners who want to learn techniques and more advanced artists who want to pursue their talent,” Elizabeth said. “We also offer events for those who just want to have fun, who want to celebrate with friends and families. The gallery also offers a unique service team-building and leadership skills class for corporations through art. Our goal is to make art accessible to everyone.”
There is no doubt that art is center stage. It is a true art gallery—a venue for professional artists to show their work. As a professional artist herself, the gallery is something she had envisioned for a long time. As she explained, “I definitely had a sense of purpose when I began painting again for the first time after a 20-year hiatus. I wanted to show my work.”
While she felt compelled to paint, she was still unsure if people would be interested enough in her art to actually purchase paintings. In 2006, she took that leap and invited friends and family, along with doctors, nurses and medical professionals with whom she worked, to her 12-piece show. With nine paintings sold before the end of the evening, Elizabeth had her answer.
“That night was a defining moment for me. There was no question that the Lord’s plan for me included painting. It was just up to me to figure out how the pieces would come together,” she said.
Elizabeth drew from her experience as a mother and as a professional to bring her dream into focus. With all the time she spent in physicians’ waiting rooms, both with her own boys and through her work in medical sales, Elizabeth had many conversations with caregivers who were desperate for rest and relaxation. The Impastato Gallery and Art Therapy combined Elizabeth’s need to serve the community—especially those with special needs—while also fulfilling her destiny as a professional artist.
“Taking care of a sick child or aging parent can be all consuming,” she said. “All too often, caregivers are so busy giving to others that they forget to give to themselves. It’s nice to provide a relaxing environment for them to escape their responsibilities for a while.”
Elizabeth explained that a few weeks ago she spoke with a woman who had been so busy tending to her sick mother that she was afraid she was losing herself. She asked if the gallery had a place for her to paint…a place for her to do something good for herself. “I told her, ‘That is exactly why we are here.’”
Elizabeth sees the gallery as a place where people can build communities of support—a place where people can meet and socialize while also accessing tools to live better lives. Her goal is to reach out to local business leaders to have them offer educational opportunities on a monthly basis. Each is designed to showcase the blending of art and science. Upcoming talks include the benefits of massage therapy as a form of relaxation, techniques to keep work and life in balance, and how women can succeed in business. The gallery will also host regular “Meet the Artist” sessions where people can learn about an artist and his or her inspiration.
“I can’t save the world, but I can help within our own community,” Elizabeth said. “I guess it is just the caretaker in me, but I feel the need to connect the talent and resources available in this community to help everyone.”
Elizabeth said that with the gallery, everything has come full circle. She recalled that while in medical sales, she went through a training exercise with her sales team to identify their passions. Asked what she would do if money was no issue, Elizabeth’s response was different from her peers. Rather than traveling the world, buying a big house or playing golf, Elizabeth said she wanted to open an art gallery that would also provide opportunities for people to discover their creativity to feel good about themselves.
“The search for my passion ended where it all began—with art,” she said. “In our fast paced world, I’m excited to provide a refuge where we can rediscover what our brains can do. In its purest form, art really is therapy.”
Impastato Gallery and Art Therapy is located in Covington at 7039 Highway 190 E. Service Rd. For more information, you can call 985-778-5338 or visit their website impastatogallery.com.