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Girls night out as an art form: "Paint and sip" classes are the latest way to hang out

When it comes to mixing hobbies and drinking, women have been known to get creative. Book clubs with Bloody Marys. Pottery with Prosecco. Cooking classes with Cabernet. If it comes with a side of alcohol, sign us up. (Within moderation, of course.)

Enter paint-while-you-drink art lessons, the latest Western New York trend that pairs step-by-step instruction with wine, beer or cocktail consumption. Think of it as da Vinci meets da vino.

The concept originated in the South before catching on in larger cities like Boston, Chicago, Denver and Seattle. The first studio hit WNY in 2010, but only recently has the trend really proliferated — three new studios opened within two months this past fall.

Operating under the premise that “everyone can be an artist,” the two- or three-hour session requires no talent, just enthusiasm. A little bit of guidance (and maybe a glass or two of wine to loosen you up) is all you need to uncork your inner Rembrandt.

“Alcohol definitely adds to the festivity,” said Patricia Grace, who opened the East Amherst franchise Pinot’s Palette last October with co-owner Pat Obstarczyk.

The upscale and cheery studio’s amenities include cubbies for your personal items, excellent lighting and plenty of parking. The posh bar serves wine and beer.

The preview party for Pinot’s Palette included a mix of hipsters with talent, a few men and several middle-aged women, many of whom hadn’t picked up a paintbrush since elementary school. Grace explained that all classes are designed for beginner painters who “can come away with something they’re very proud of — and a new confidence in their ability to create art.”

While most of her customers are women, she believes it also makes a great date night. “Instead of just staring at a movie screen, painting gives them something to talk about, a reason to interact. It’s social and interesting,” said Grace.

Cheers to Monet in Hamburg also offers couples’ nights, as well as several children’s and family classes. But owner Cindy Cervoni, an artist and former schoolteacher, said the majority of the classes at her BYOB studio are filled with women who just want a fun night out. “They drink a little, loosen up a little, sing a little, dance a little,” said Cervoni. “They always say it’s better than a bar. You’re just hanging around with friends and then you leave with your masterpiece. It’s the perfect night out.” She said one customer refers to it as her “therapy class.”

Lisa Scibetta of Painting with a Twist in Lancaster says her classes offer people the chance to unwind and de-stress. “In this day and age, people are so attached to their phones, but when they’re here, they are totally engaged for two hours on who they’re with and what they’re doing,” said Scibetta, who opened her BYOB studio in September 2014 with franchise partner Mary Grupka. Once a month they host Painting with a Purpose, where proceeds are earmarked for a specific organization.

Scibetta said her studio’s extensive library of over 4,000 paintings differentiates Painting with a Twist, and admitted that people often have what she calls an “art attack” when they first come in and see a blank canvas. “But it’s amazing to see what people who say they have no talent end up with at the end of the night,” she added.

Stephanie Stanislowksy, co-owner of Paint on Tap in Williamsville, agreed that some customers are nervous when they first arrive. “But then they have a drink, relax, have a great time and leave with something they’re really happy with,” said Stanislowksy, who opened the studio in November 2013 with co-owner Anthony Zynda after attending a similar class in the Albany area.

Paint on Tap has a local focus, with a library of paintings including Delaware Park, the grain elevators, Niagara Falls and the Buffalo city skyline. They also employ Buffalo-area instructors, buy their canvases and brushes from Hyatt’s, hold monthly fundraisers to benefit area charities and serve reasonably priced local craft micro brews (along with popular wines) in their bar.

The Northtowns location has been so successful that Stanislowsky and Zynda opened another branch in East Aurora this past November, making it the newest addition to the area’s paint and sip movement.

But husband and wife team John and Debbie Flanagan were the original trailblazers in 2010, when they opened Art-By You! in Depew. Debbie’s sister, who lived in Florida and had seen the concept work there, suggested the idea to the Flanagans when John was having a hard time finding a job as an art teacher.

John is quick to point out that their philosophy from the get-go was painting first, wine second. “Some people come with Starbucks, some with water and some with wine, and nobody seems to care either way.”

When asked about the proliferation of similar studios, he added, “They do seem to be very trendy right now, but we’re busier than ever with a strong base of regulars. The area hasn’t reached the interest saturation point by a long shot.”

Painting outside the box

At MUSEjar in East Aurora, owner Vanessa Frost says her lessons are a departure from the more typical paint and sip offerings. “They’re not paint-by-number by any means,” said Frost. By teaching different techniques, encouraging participants to be adventurous and allowing them to choose their own color palette and brushes, everyone leaves with a different painting. The BYOB classes include complimentary appetizers, and private parties are available.

Classes without glasses

Not every painting session has to include sipping to be popular: the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens has offered classes for at least ten years, said Erin Grajek, director of marketing. Led by a professional artist and educator, Grajek said the alcohol-free classes are “less lecture, more hands-on” and that the free-form structure allows for greater creative license.

Where to get your paint on:

4804 Transit Road, Depew; 510-5949
Pricing: Two-hour session, $25; children’s session (ages 6-12), $20

Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens
2655 South Park Ave., Buffalo; 827-1584
Cost: Individual classes $17 members, $18 non-members; four-class package $60 members, $66 non-members

Cheers to Monet
229 Lake St., Hamburg; 648-2711
Cost: Two-hour session, $35; three-hour session, $45

17 Elm St., East Aurora; 655-1015
Cost: $35 (includes complimentary appetizers)

Paint on Tap
5762 Main St., Williamsville; 932-7694
650 Main St., East Aurora; 714-5448
Cost: $37

Painting with a Twist
6363 Transit Road, Suite 550, Lancaster; 391-1956
Cost: $25-$35

Pinot’s Palette
9570 Transit Road, East Amherst; 218-8446
Cost: Two-hour session, $35; three-hour session $45

Van Gogh on the Rocks
10255 Main St., Clarence; 308-4402
Cost: $35 for two-hour session

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