Ylenia Mino, owner of Paint for Purpose, at Hellada Gallery at 117 Linden Ave. Photograph by Alena Maschke.

When the pandemic restrictions shut down her business, Ylenia Mino had to shift focus. Her company, Paint for a Purpose, offers painting classes for corporate and private clients—hosting as many as 200 people per event—that range from team building exercises to birthday parties.

With in-person events prohibited, Mino quickly moved her business online, offering virtual classes and delivering painting kits to her students’ homes. In a time of turmoil, like the coronavirus pandemic, she figured, people needed her classes more than ever.

“I want to bring that joy, encouragement and empower people,” Mino said of her businesses’ namesake purpose.

Learning how to paint and improving their skills can help students overcome challenges in other areas of their lives, Mino said. “If they’re frustrated, they don’t know how to do something—they can overcome that.”

After taking art classes from age 7 through her teen years, Mino moved on to study psychology at the University of Turin. Understanding the human mind has informed both her art and her educational approach, she said.

“If you have a vision, if you have a story—if you understand the mind, the heart—and you put it together with art, it’s really a powerful tool.”

For her students, the classes also offer an opportunity to escape the stress of everyday life.

“It just gives you that ability to let your creativity express itself in the most organic way possible,” said Sean Seal, a hearing aid specialist from Long Beach who has attended several of Mino’s classes and even celebrated his 30th birthday with a paint-and-sip party.

Her warm approach and openness are what stood out most to him, Seal said, “allowing you to be creative in a nice, positive environment.”

Mino aims to lead by example when it comes to overcoming challenges and taking matters into her own hands.

“She sets up chairs, tables, easels, all on her own,” said Marek Dzida, director of Hellada Gallery, where Mino has recently resumed in person classes. “She’s a one-woman show.”

The pandemic has put that resilience to the test once more. “It makes you or it breaks you,” Mino said of a challenging time like the current. “You can bend as long as you don’t break.”

Her experience as an immigrant—Mino moved to the U.S. from a small town in Northern Italy nine years ago—has taught her to bend, readjust and fight for every opportunity, she said.

“You don’t have a safety net—family, friends—everything is new,” Mino said. “You have to become like a tiger.”

Since the state moved to allow in-person gatherings to resume, Mino has observed a change in her students. “People are more grateful,” she said, adding that they seemed more appreciative of the sense of community the classes offer.

Her business, she noted, was able to survive with the help of a $5,000 grant from TMC Community Capital, as well as a lot of her own sweat and—at times—tears. It also offered her to fulfill a longtime dream of hers to travel to Hawaii. Soon, she’s hoping to offer classes there as well.

Paint for a Purpose is located at 3780 Kilroy Airport Way, suite 200. They can be reached at 562-666-2517.