UPSTAIRS AT BORU The "classroom" of PaintNite.
One of the more interesting art developments of the season has been the advent of PaintNite, a social gathering in which participants collect to drink and paint in groups at local bars. The Portland chapter (the concept originated recently in Boston) was launched this month by Callie Hastings, a trained art educator who currently runs a four-night weekly schedule every Sunday through Wednesday (at Bull Feeney's, Brian Boru, the Wine Bar, and ForePlay, respectively). We spoke to her about what sort of impact and reception the event has had, and what it's like to get creative in bars.
PAINTNITE HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR THREE WEEKS NOW. I HAVE TO ASK: DO DRINKING AND PAINTING MIX? That's up to personal opinion! I think it relaxes people a little bit so they're less intimidated and can have fun with friends, but some people do worry they're going to paint worse. (laughs)
YOUR BACKGROUND IS IN ART EDUCATION. WHAT'S IT LIKE ADMINISTERING SOMETHING LIKE THIS IN BARS INSTEAD OF A CLASSROOM? The way that I teach is different because I'm walking through a process instead of helping them learn a certain technique or use certain supplies. It's a little bit more instruction-heavy, but it's also a lot of fun and more relaxed because people are drinking and want to have a good time.
DO PEOPLE HAVE TO COMMIT TO A WEEKLY THING OR CAN THEY JUST COME FOR A SINGLE NIGHT? We work through a painting within two hours, so they can come once or as often as they'd like. We have different paintings for different nights of the week.
DOES IT COST SOMETHING DIFFERENT DEPENDING ON THE VENUE? It's typically $45. Most people have been getting Living Social deals and that sort of thing while we've been getting up and running. That includes supplies, setting everything up, and instruction — it's just like a two-hour art class.
SO IT DOESN'T INCLUDE DRINKS? No. They started that way in Boston but quickly realized that it wasn't going to work out.
PEOPLE HAVE THE OPTION OF MAKING A CLASSIC PAINTING STEP-BY-STEP ALONG WITH YOU OR DOING THEIR OWN THING. WHAT'S BEEN THE PERCENTAGE SO FAR FOR EACH? To be honest, most people are more comfortable following along. A lot of people haven't painted since school or are a little bit intimidated by painting on canvas, so they feel more comfortable with that kind of instruction. But I've definitely had a few comfortable people that are very artistic come and do whatever they want, which is awesome.
AND EVERYONE GETS TO KEEP THE PAINTINGS? Yeah.
IT'S REFRESHING TO SEE A CREATIVE SOCIAL EVENT IN A BAR THAT'S DIFFERENT FROM OPEN MIC, KARAOKE, OR TRIVIA. HAVE YOU GOTTEN A SENSE OF WHY PEOPLE ARE INTERESTED? Part of it is just to do something different that might be a little outside of their comfort zone. It's a different social setting. A lot of people are tired of trivia or karaoke and are looking for something else to do. I feel like this is so novel and fun in that way.
DO YOU HAVE ANY COMMUNITY GOAL FOR PAINTNITE BEYOND WHERE IT'S AT NOW? I would love to see the attendance go up a little higher as the word gets out. And I'd love to do more where it's not just PaintNite and involving drinking — I have a background working with kids so I'd love to do more community outreach stuff, classes and that sort of thing. Just see where I can take it.
IS IT GOING TO GO THROUGH THE WINTER? That's the plan, yeah. Right now we're doing three to four nights a week and we'll see how that keeps up. We might cut it back during the winter to two.
HAS ANYBODY SHOWN UP TO DO IT ROGUE? JUST BRING THEIR OWN MATERIALS? No, nobody's done that yet. But I would totally welcome it!