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Social painting grows popular at bars, art studios

The experience known as social painting is seeing explosive growth in cities across the country as people seek to imbibe and relax while rediscovering their creative side.
By KATHY MATHESON, Associated Press Published: March 27, 2014
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The Fox and Hound pub in downtown Philadelphia boasts all the fixings of a standard sports bar: huge TVs, numerous beers on draft and a menu filled with burgers, wings and nachos.

So what are all the easels and canvases for?

Welcome to Paint Nite, an opportunity to tap your inner Van Gogh. Just order a drink, put on a smock and lighten up a bit as a friendly instructor takes you step-by-step through the brush strokes of a landscape, still life or skyline.

But be sure to reserve your spot ahead of time. The two-hour event, like more than a dozen others held weekly in Philadelphia, often sells out.

The experience known as social painting is seeing explosive growth in cities across the country as people seek to imbibe and relax while rediscovering their creative side.

“It’s been crazy,” said Laura Romaine, assistant manager of Painting with a Twist, another paint-and-sip business in the city. “They’re like banging down the door to come in here and paint.”

Not an artist? Join the club. The crowds include couples on dates, co-ed group outings, bachelorette parties and the simply curious. Many can’t remember their last encounter with a palette.

Yet something clearly resonates. Painting with a Twist opened its BYOB studio in Philadelphia’s funky South Street area in October and already is looking for a second location downtown, Romaine said.

The Louisiana-based company, which offers lessons as well as private painting parties, had 126 franchises nationwide as of last year — more than double its total in 2011, officials said.

And Paint Nite, which started with one event at a Boston bar in March 2012, has grown in two years to 55,000 people attending 1,100 events per month in the U.S. and Canada, co-founder Sean McGrail said.

The company has been adding 10 cities a month and just started its first overseas operation in Sydney, he said. Next up: Johannesburg and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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