Paint-Parties Are Gaining Momentum, Stepping on Toes and Making People Happy

If we are anything alike, you have a list of “emergency” events and activities for mandatory engagements with people you have nothing in common with. Ah the HOLIDAYS: An excellent time for connecting with people you genuinely enjoy dotted with periods of contact with those you do not – in-laws, distant cousins, a crowd of crazed bachelorettes, your brother’s bros, your department co-workers. If you have any artistic bones in your body an organized, dictated, paint-by-color-esque evening might give you a funny taste in your mouth. On the other hand it might be an opportunity to do something (at least a little bit) up your alley with these people. If you aren’t too picky you might just have yourself a huge blast.
Art-parties are all the rage, and for good reason. Most people are told early on in life that they are “most distinctly not” artistically gifted (which I think is a little sad for humanity but that’s a different story). By the time sensitive Americans reach adulthood, you better bet some of them need alcohol to get their creative juices flowing, especially for the corny but somewhat endearing activity of all painting the same thing en-masse. Companies like Charlie Hall’s Traveling Art Party (for hire all throughout the Northeast), Muse Paint Bar (Providence), Paint and Vino (Pawtucket) and others capitalize on the combination of inexperience, intoxication and inevitable laughs because who hates to paint? But who has the time to learn? And what’s more fun than comparing yourself to others?
The sequence of events at art-parties generally starts with a bubbly instructor introducing him/herself and the company involved, inviting everyone to grab drinks if they haven’t already, asking how many people have painted before, encouraging  the embarrassed and skeptical participant(s) that they “can do this” and that “it doesn’t take experience or art school to paint,” then introducing the (often) simple, blocky, colorful painting you’ll be recreating. A friend of mine pointed out that color mixing is a concept many people are unfamiliar with, and that it’s a useful transferable takeaway. Boom there it is; first task involving paint. From then on it’s all drinking, snacking and paint layering. Some of the instructors allow for more socializing than others, but they all generally emphasize party over painting.
Gaining mental access to the technical aspect of painting seems to be nugget of goodness in all this. Nico, a 28-year-old Newporter, reflected on her Paint Nite [sic] experience with radiating positivity, saying that she was “really surprised at the news that you’re able to make a nice picture without any experience… I thought it would be complicated, but it wasn’t; it was fun.” This same “lifting of the curtain” can bother those who actually consider themselves artistic. A 25-year-old art student friend noted that these types of parties might diminish the appreciation for the anguish and effort it takes to create an original piece, perpetuating a form of disrespect toward those who dedicate themselves to the arts. I can see that. On the other hand, most masters started out as apprentices doing something similar to paint-and-dabble, only it was hard, alcohol may or may not have been involved and they were frequently starting around the age of 12. If the people in your company look over at you and question why you’re spending $120K or so on something they just learned in two hours, at least you know who your friends are. If they churn out a Rembrandt-level work during this time, it’s very likely they had some skill before the party. If a friend with no experience recognizes his/her genius at a Paint and Dabble and becomes a successful artist afterward I’d be bummed too. But not for long because “good for them” and I’ve been working on my jealousy issues.
Personally I’d be more interested in buying the supplies and hosting a paint-party at home, but it simply wouldn’t have the same inclusive effect; when I paint I don’t like to talk to people, and I’m not into copies and I’m not typically available to answer questions. Therefore, I conclude that these gatherings meet a need and serve that need nicely. Also, let’s chill out; this is painting with booze not fine art. Happy Holidays!
There are many companies and entities that offer  paint nites. Some are willing to come to you, some have permanent homes and most require a reservation.
Charlie Hall’s Traveling Art Party “Drink and Dabble,” Providence; Scheduled at various establishments (see calendar), and available for private events; drinkanddabble.com
Muse Paintbar, 117 N Main St, Providence; A permanent space available for private parties and kids events; musepaintbar.com
Paint Drops, 560 Mineral Spring Ave, Pawtucket; A permanent space available for private parties and kids events; paintdropsri.com
Paint Nite, (Newport and South County); Hosts at local bars, see calendar; paintnite.com
Paint and vino, 150 Main St, Pawtucket; A permanent space with scheduled evenings, see calendar; paintandvino.com
Allie’s Wine and Paint Nite, Moves, but often at:
TwoTen Oyster Bar, 210 Salt Pond Rd., Wakefield 401-363-2787; wineandpaintnight.com

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