‘Sipping and painting’ the next ‘dinner and a movie’?

A look at what makes social painting classes so popular and what a local business offers for patrons who want to paint and imbibe at the same time.

WASHINGTON — Staci Carter has seen some pretty interesting stuff in the two years she’s been an instructor at Uncork’d Art, a business that encourages patrons to paint while drinking alcohol.

One participant fell asleep after some pre-class cocktails kicked in. Another insisted she had no painting abilities. Sometimes, a room full of chatty painters can be tough to tame. But overall, it’s a rewarding experience that helps people discover their untapped abilities, she says.

“Some people really do come in with anxieties, and a lot of it is because trying something new — it’s always daunting,” Carter says. “[They] walk out different than the way they come in, on a deeper level, which sounds like something that wouldn’t happen during a ‘paint and sip’ class, but it does.”

Uncork’d Art walks participants through painting a piece, all while they are imbibing and getting to know fellow wanna-be painters. There are three locations — Georgetown, Reston and Baltimore — and another location is set to open in Ashburn, Va., in January.

Uncork’d Art is just one of the many social painting businesses popping up around the country. The trend is growing in popularity at many bars and art studios.

There are more than 100 paint and sip-style classes in the D.C. area listed on business review site, Yelp. Uncork’d Art’s Georgetown location ranked No. 5 on Yelp’s top 10 list with D.C.’s ArtJamz at No. 1.

The trend may be explained by people’s desire to explore opportunities outside the normal “dinner and a movie,” says Uncork’d Art manager Alabaje Francis.

“You get to come in with friends and family, without a TV to distract you,” Francis says.

Francis says his idea to open up Uncork’d Art three years ago was born of his vision to connect the community. He says he wanted people to share a glass of wine, get to know the other people in the class, unwind and paint a picture in the process.

The alcohol is secondary in the classes, Carter says. Wine is not available at the Reston location — instead, it offers teas.

The classes are a sort of therapy for the working class, too, Francis says.

Uncorkd Art (Courtesy Alavaje Francis/Uncorkd Art Facebook)

A group of participants shows off their finished art at Uncork’d Art. (Courtesy Alabaje Francis/Uncork’d Art Facebook)

“There are people who work 9-to-5 in front of the computer or have a hectic schedule,” Francis says. “This relaxes you with wine and music and gives you some creation.”

The wine doesn’t hurt when it comes to getting the creative juices flowing, either, he says.

At Uncork’d Art, participants pay $50 for a two-hour session and get one glass of wine or another beverage, and materials and instruction from a lead teacher and an assistant. Participants can purchase more wine. Each class has about 30 people in each, and can fill up quickly.

To those who balk at the cost, Francis says the value lies with the instructors — and the added benefit of not having to clean up.

“If you’ve never painted before, our instructors can turn you into Picasso,” he says.

Participants can follow along with an instructor’s picture or “go rogue” and paint whatever they’d like, Carter says. It’s all about having fun and relaxing, she says.

And Carter takes that to heart.

When one of her students was having a particularly troubling experience, Carter approached her. The woman says she was not good at painting, only good at doing things in a more hands-on way. Carter told her to do just that.

“I came back to see how she was doing, and she had finger-painted the entire thing,” Carter says. “It’s really about making sure people get the most out of their experience.”

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