The most unique Christmas party in Boston took place a couple of weeks ago at The Paint Bar, 248 Newbury Street. Instead of merely drinking and carousing and schmoozing, and going home, guests were welcomed warmly, offered a Midori margarita and some delicious nibbles. Then they were invited to take a seat at one of the long tables against the wall laden with acrylic paints, brushes, empty wine glasses and plain glass ornaments with no decoration on them.
On the other side of the tables was a group of artists and art students from the Massachusetts College of Art. With glasses and ornaments beautifully decorated, the artists were ready to show guests how to reproduce the pretty articles themselves for their own enjoyment and for keeping and taking home.
The Paint Bar, part of a phenomenon throughout the country, was opened in Newton, Massachusetts, by the mother-and-daughter team of Jill and Jackie Schon five years ago. It was the first of its kind in the Northeast. Soon after, they opened another in Falmouth, on Cape Cod. Three years ago the women opened the downtown Boston facility, and it thrived; 30,000 people have come to enjoy the paint-and-sip facilities since they opened here. Some come in every week.
“We’re changing something here, and I call it ‘art intimidation,'” said Jill Schon, who is not a professional artist. Daughter Jackie has a design background, and Jill’s mother-in-law, Nancy Schon, is the sculptor who created the beloved mother and baby ducks copied from the children’s book “Make Way for Ducklings,” and which now march across a special place in Boston’s Public Garden for evermore.
“Many people, we’ve found,” continued Jill Schon, “may have been told by a teacher when they were in third or fourth grade, that they really didn’t have any art talent, and since then, they have not dared to paint anything. They are intimidated by the possibility of painting badly and have stopped ever painting again, but in here, our staff shows them step-by-step how to paint a canvas or an object, and when they’re finished, the most common comment is ‘I can’t believe I did that!'”
It was certainly true the other night, when newbie artists, non-artists, and maybe an experienced artist or two, came up with some lovely ornaments that will grace the fanciest Christmas trees and wine glasses that will be proudly given as gifts to wine drinkers. Throughout the year the Newbury Street bar is open seven days a week for painting canvases and objects of all kinds, and a session costs $35 which includes materials and instruction. Guests may buy alcohol and bring in food, and corporate parties can have lavishly catered events here or people can just bring in snacks. The fact that the Paint Bar serves food allows the shop to invite children in, and family groups are having fun here as well as adults.
Sure, you can still find the bars that give you a chance to play pool, watch a football game on television, or try to hit on an uninterested stranger, but the Paint Bar offers the chance to do something a bit more creative as you enjoy your drink, anytime of the year. Go to www.thepaintbar.com for more information.