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Entrepreneurs / Small Business  April 21, 2011

Paint the town red, or white, or rose

Music throbs, laughter rings, and color splashes in bright strokes on everyone’s canvas. This is an art class, an evening out with friends, good food and wine all at once. The light-hearted atmosphere mixes with untapped creativity for many participants.

Whether it’s Studio Vino in Loveland, Creative Spirits in Fort Collins, or Gadabout Art at your location, it’s all about art and fun. These businesses are part of a play-with-art trend sweeping the country. From Georgia to Alabama and Texas to Colorado, these studios are adamant that no art experience is necessary to attend their classes. Entertainment with friends is the main idea, but discovering your inner artist is a bonus for many.

Studio Vino

“Our focus is fun with an upscale flavor,” according to Rhett Polka, one of the four partners invested in Studio Vino. All their “artertainers” are accomplished artists whose expertise enables a roomful of people to each create a painting to take home in one evening.

Studio Director Deb Alles is excited by the community response. “People are looking for fun things to do for girls’ night out or date night, and this is the next level (of fun).” She said people may go out to dinner, then come in to paint, nibble on appetizers or desserts, and have a glass of wine.

Initially women seem the most enthusiastic to sign up, but on a recent night men made up a full 30 percent of the class. The cost of the evening, which includes all supplies and wine, is $35 per person.

After one experience at a paint-n-sip studio, Polka knew he wanted to bring this venue to his art-centric hometown of Loveland. “I grew up in Loveland, and it’s a perfect fit, tailor-made for our downtown,” he said. “My goal is to feed off of what Loveland already has and feed into it.”

He mentioned how aware of art people in Loveland are in general, such as parents and students involved in the LISA (Loveland Area Integrated School of the Arts) program, which integrates art into elementary, middle and high school curriculum. Polka wants to give back to the community and host fundraisers and benefits for organizations struggling in this economy. Studio Vino also offers open hours for working on your own with their materials.

Creative Spirits

Rob Caines attended a business conference that offered a Sip N Strokes event.

“I went crazy over it when I saw in action how much fun everyone was having,” he said.

He promptly went home and sold his wife Patty on the idea. It took him only four months to come up with a complete business plan. Within a year’s time they’d moved to Colorado to be near their adult children and opened Creative Spirits on South Mason Street in Fort Collins.

Caines says at one time he was inspired by Bob Ross, the TV painter of happy little trees, to pursue art. “But I saw how expensive all the art supplies would be,” he said.

That is one reason Creative Spirits gears things for beginners and wraps a more formal approach to art instruction in a relaxed atmosphere. A session costs between $25 and $45 per person.

In addition to the openings and featured showings hosted at the in-house gallery, local and on-tour musicians make good use of the surprisingly fabulous acoustics to present concerts. “We enjoy promoting musicians and at the same time invite we new people into our building,” Caines added.

Gadabout Art

Gadabout Art began as little more than a seed of an idea. When Lauren Howell made a presentation to the Fort Collins Art Lab, they caught her enthusiasm enough to sponsor a first-ever supper fundraiser last November. Before she knew it, Howell was in business, booking painting parties in venues all around Fort Collins.

She calls herself a “mobile painting instructor” and loves guiding these painting classes. “It is the most relaxing way to spend two hours of your time. You get friends, wine, a new experience and a piece of art you can take home and put on your wall.”

All for only $30; $25 if you register early.

“Always have your eyes wide open because you never know where opportunities are going to be,” she says about her business. She also encourages people who have never painted before to just try it. Gadabout Art brings everything needed to create a painting, including dropcloths, so there is no mess left behind at the end of class. When she’s not gadding about, Howell has classes on Wednesday evenings at Tasty Harmony in Old Town and in May she’ll be teaching in the Beer Garden at The Equinox Brewery on Remington Street.

Clever names and artsy paintings are the hallmark of the movement. Canvas and Cocktails has locations in Cherry Creek and Southglenn in Denver; Whimsey Paint and Sip harks from Erie and Painting with a Twist (aka Corks N Canvas) has franchises in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

So what is it about this friends, wine, and paint combination that has everyone flocking to grab a smock and palette for an evening’s entertainment? Caines said one man told him, “I went to school and majored in history and math. But this woke up something inside me I never knew I had.”

The truth is, some people just have a blast for one evening. But others, some who have never painted before, fall in love with it. All they had to do was show up.

Music throbs, laughter rings, and color splashes in bright strokes on everyone’s canvas. This is an art class, an evening out with friends, good food and wine all at once. The light-hearted atmosphere mixes with untapped creativity for many participants.

Whether it’s Studio Vino in Loveland, Creative Spirits in Fort Collins, or Gadabout Art at your location, it’s all about art and fun. These businesses are part of a play-with-art trend sweeping the country. From Georgia to Alabama and Texas to Colorado, these studios are adamant that no art experience is necessary to attend their classes. Entertainment with…

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