Melissa Costa grew up in an artsy home. Her brother was an artist and she and her mom often did crafts, but her grandmother was her biggest influence.

“My grandmother pushed us to be involved in art,” Melissa said. “She taught me to spin wool and quilt. When I was in college she told me to take an art class. Finally I did, and I was like, ‘this is where I am supposed to be.’”

Costa grew up on a ranch in Turlock, California, in Central Valley, where she had tons of pets — thus where her love of animals began. She and her boyfriend, Chad Scott, a farrier, have two dogs — Mercury, a Belgian Malinois rescued from a kill shelter in Texas, and Bella, a beagle rescued from a country road in Richmond. The couple also has two Siamese cats, Spooky and Luna. (Read more about Chad and his work with horses in the Features section).

Melissa Costa looks at a painting of the Singing Bridge she did for a painting class for her company, Capital City Arts. (Photo by Hannah Brown)

Chad and Melissa live in South Frankfort, but met in Richmond while Melissa was attending Eastern Kentucky University on a softball scholarship. She graduated in 2014 with an art degree. After graduation, she moved back to California and was the director of a small family-owned art gallery.

Missing Chad, she moved back to Kentucky about a year and a half later.

“People from Kentucky are either thinking about going home or going home,” she said. “I left, but I missed it.”

She said she not only missed Chad, but she missed the people of Kentucky. She was taught growing up to be cautious of strangers, but in Kentucky she was able to let some of that guard down.

“I remember walking around Richmond and someone said hi to me,” she recalled. “I thought it was creepy, but that’s how it should be.”

Melissa works full time at EKU as an E-learning specialist.

“We are a part of a training resource center,” she said. “We get all of the content for training social workers and we create the web-based training for it.”

Melissa feels the work she does is important and fulfilling in most ways, but she still has her artistic side to fill. To do that, she started her business, Capital City Arts, in 2019. Through her business, she does a variety of things, from art classes to commissioned pet portraits.

During Christmas, she paints custom ornaments of people’s pets. While living in Richmond, she taught paint classes for Art Full Yours, which were paint-and-sip classes.

She began to toss the idea around about starting her own paint classes, and ran the numbers on how much it would cost to purchase her own easels and supplies.

Melissa Costa hosted a painting class for her company, Capital City Arts, where participants painted a horseshoe and roses for the Kentucky Derby. (Photo by Hannah Brown)

“Was it going to be worth it?” she recalled asking herself. “One day, my boyfriend told me to go fold laundry and I went into the laundry room and he had set up an easel and paint.” And, had all of the supplies for her to run a class.

“I had just started getting momentum, then the pandemic shut it down.”

But it didn’t keep her down for long, she began offering virtual painting classes.

“My idea was that I wanted it to be different,” she said. “There are a lot of paint-and-sip classes. I wanted people to have an experience that makes them appreciate art and see it differently. Come relax with friends, but learn that there’s a lot of art and it can be complex.”

Melissa Costa, owner of Capital City Arts, paints a pet portrait on an ornament. (Photo by Hannah Brown)

As soon as restrictions were lifted she went back to hosting in-person art classes, which she holds at various locations around town including Goodwood and Capital Artisan Market and Events (formerly known as Silo Ridge).

Melissa not only offers paint classes. During Christmas time she held a folded Christmas tree class. She purchases old books from New Leash on Life for the class.

“Reduce and reuse and make something cool,” she said. In the fall she hosted a class that made paper pumpkins.

For her painting classes, every class paints a picture. She has done nests and rabbits in the spring, the Singing Bridge, trees, birds and more. Around Derby time she did horseshoes.

Each painter received a canvas that Melissa drew the outline of Kentucky and a horseshoe on. The painter decided their background and then filled in the drawing.

“I break it down as much as I can,” she said. “Then we layered the roses. We start with lighter colors, then used medium colors and dark tones and highlighted with white.

Melissa Costa looks at owl paintings she did for a painting class for her company, Capital City Arts. (Photo by Hannah Brown)

“I go step-by-step as much as I possibly can. I explain everything I know.”

She said many people view it as a challenge.

“What I hear mostly is, ‘I’m not good at this,’” she said. “Then I ask ‘how often do you paint?’ And they say ‘never.’ You have to do something more than once to be good at it. I want people to be kind to themselves. It’s about having fun and having an experience and getting out of the house.

“It may not be the best thing you’ve made in your life, but you had fun and you had a positive experience.”

Along with her classes, she also gives back to the community by hosting classes for free at the Capital City Activity Center. She said she would also love to do a fundraiser for the Franklin County Humane Society.

Melissa Costa, owner of Capital City Arts, drew a picture of her dogs on the door to her art studio at her home. (Photo by Hannah Brown)

For the first class she hosted at the Capital City Activity Center, she led participants in a still-life painting.

“I brought different mediums — pencils, watercolor and acrylic,” she said. “I demonstrated a little bit about how you map out the painting and shading.

“One of the women had been an art teacher. She is legally blind and she was making a beautiful drawing.”

If you would like to purchase some of Melissa’s artwork visit her booth at Capital Artisan Market and Events, 314 St, Clair St, where she sells prints, ornaments, art pillows and more.

She also sells pillows at Earth Alchemy, 603 Taylor Ave., and at her online store

“I am also doing mystery art mail as a fun gift idea and a way for art collectors to add to their collection.”

Check that out at

Follow Melissa on social media @capitalcityarts on Facebook and Instagram.

Several paintings that Melissa Costa created for painting classes sit on a shelf in her art studio at her home. (Photo by Hannah Brown)
Melissa Costa painted a picture of a swing for a painting class for her company, Capital City Arts. (Photo by Hannah Brown)
Melissa Costa made a wreathe using old paintbrushes. (Photo by Hannah Brown)
A painting of a skull and flowers by Melissa Costa, owner of Capital City Arts, hangs in her home. (Photo by Hannah Brown)
During Christmas, Melissa Costa, owner of Capital City Arts, painted pet portraits on ornaments. (Photo by Hannah Brown)
Melissa Costa, owner of Capital City Arts, paints a pet portrait on an ornaments. (Photo by Hannah Brown)
Melissa Costa is the owner of Capital City Arts. (Photo by Hannah Brown)
Melissa Costa is the owner of Capital City Arts. (Photo by Hannah Brown)