“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

That quote, by Trappist monk and writer Thomas Merton, is found on one of the walls inside Thousand Oaks art studio The Arterie. The space provides an opportunity for students, both young and old, to explore their creativity, and themselves, through art.

Founded by artist and teacher Cara Franke in 2013, The Arterie this year celebrates its fifth anniversary of offering immersive art classes for both children and adults that emphasize personal expression as well as instruction in the fundamentals of drawing and painting.

Franke is a trained artist specializing in watercolor, with a strong emphasis on photorealism and printmaking. She also has a solid background in teaching. She studied art education along with art history at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and pursued graduate studies in both art education and the fine arts at California State University, Northridge. Her own art deals with the dichotomy of man and machine, often combining traditional subject matter (such as the human figure) into landscapes in mixed media formats on both small and large scales. Franke’s biggest influences (in art and teaching) are Georgia O’Keefe, Ed Ruscha and the German expressionists.

When Franke first started The Arterie, she didn’t have a clear picture of what exactly it would be — but she knew she wanted to offer something different.

“I love teaching,” said Franke, who taught in public and private schools for more than 17 years before opening her studio. “I wanted to be able to offer art classes that are not your typical classes. I did not know where or what The Arterie was going to be before I moved in, but the stars aligned and it all came together really nicely.”

The Arterie offers classes for people of all ages and has an exciting lineup for fall, including adult figure-drawing workshops and a class on abstract painting. But summer camp is one of the studio’s most popular programs . . . and one of Franke’s favorites, too. Warm and receptive with her students, she believes children have a creative edge over adults.

“One of the things I love about teaching art is that these kids come up with these amazing ideas that adults don’t always come up with themselves,” Franke said. “Children are not given enough credit for what they come up with.”

Piper Tarnol, who works at the studio, also loves how the students surprise.

“I love seeing what the kids are able to create from each lesson that Cara creates,” said Tarnol. “The first day I worked at the studio, there were 5-year-olds naming the primary and secondary colors and I was blown away that they knew that at such a young age.”

Tarnol also enjoys how the kids teach her about what is going on in their worlds.

“I don’t mind the kids teaching me about all the new trends going on,” said Tarnol.

In her classes, Franke allows the children to express themselves and create whatever they would like, while following the guidelines of the lesson. She teaches students a variety of artistic methods, including two-point perspective and monoprinting.

“Cara’s approach is unique, in its way, where she teaches the fundamentals of fine art; but it’s in a more laid-back environment, where the kids have the freedom to still create their own individual take on the lesson,” Tarnol explained.

“There are certain lessons and goals we want the students to learn,” said Franke. “We want them to understand the process and how to do certain things. There are certain goals that we want the students to accomplish. . . . We really allow each student to express themselves; their work is an extension of themselves.”

Franke firmly believes in the importance of letting the students create what their hearts desire.

“Students need to feel themselves when they are making their art,” she said. “Students feel a great sense of pride when they choose what to make.”

Tarnol said she believes that Franke’s approach is what makes working at The Arterie fun.

“The best part is interacting with the kids and being able to see what they create,” said Tarnol. “I love being able to work in such a cool environment surrounded by art all day.”

The Arterie is located at 2219 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd, No. 105. For more information, as well as class schedules and prices, call 379-1426 or visit www.theARTerie.org.