Drinking and decompressing from a long work week has been an activity reserved for dark bars stuffed full of loud music and chattering people, with only a hangover to take home afterward.
However, what if you could enjoy a glass of wine in a much more well-lit room with a piece of art to take home at the end of the night?
Thanks to wine-and-paint studios such as Pinot’s Palette, Paint Nite and Wine and Design, which have been popping up throughout New Jersey during the last two years, those looking to reconnect with friends can enjoy their glass (or two) of wine while also creating homemade paintings under the instruction of a local artist in a class setting.
“People are looking for something different to do,” said Courtney Osgood, communications manager of Paint Nite, which has five license agreements throughout New Jersey. “We are in such a digital age that this is a great activity where you can put your phone down for two hours, disconnect and then reconnect with new people.”
This “something different” has another edge that makes it ideal to be paired with wine and friends — it’s therapeutic.
Hali Crystall, studio manager of Wine and Design Rahway, said that people often say that the studio’s classes are like therapy — sessions that they attend over and over again, as many customers are repeat visitors, some of which attend once a month.
“They can relax, be themselves and forget about the stress of the day,” she said.
In this respect, wine-and-paint studios do not require a certain level of artistic ability, although many feel some apprehension when they walk through the door and see that the painting they will soon be recreating appears complicated.
“You can hear people chattering and saying, ‘There’s no way I will be able to do this — my painting is not going to look like this,’” said Osgood. “People haven’t picked up paint brushes since elementary school, so there’s a little bit of anxiety. However, by the middle, people are loosening up and complimenting their friends’ work and even the work of people they met that night.”
This is because wine-and-paint studios don’t teach people how to paint or expect them to know how — they show them how to re-create one particular painting in small, manageable steps, which Carmella Bassolino, owner of Pinot’s Palette Somerville, said is a common misconception.
Since these classes are about entertainment, not learning painting as a skill, class instruction isn’t just about being able to show the average person how to re-create a beautiful painting. Instead, Crystall said, “instructors are entertainers, people who have big personalities and are comfortable talking in front of large groups.”
About 85 percent of those who attend wine-and-paint events are women, mostly between ages 21 and 34, but many older women and couples are also heading to the studios.
Pinot’s Palette Somerville, one of 14 New Jersey locations, receives about 350 to 400 visitors per week, while about 200 people attend New Jersey Paint Nite events per week, and Wine and Design Rahway, one of four New Jersey locations, receives about 330 visitors weekly.
All of the studios have one set price that includes all supplies, including smocks, paint, brushes, easels, napkins, plates, bottle openers, etc. Wine and Design and Pinot’s Palette two-hour classes of 36 both cost $35, while Pinot’s Palette also offers a three-hour class that costs $45. Attendants of Pinot’s Palette and Wine and Design events are encouraged to bring drinks and snacks.
Paint Nite’s two-hour $45 events, however, are a little different. They are not hosted in a single studio, but instead are at local bars and restaurants, including the Garden State Ale House in New Brunswick, The Boathouse at Mercer Lake in West Windsor and the Edison Hotel in Edison. Attendees, ranging from 25 to 40 people, purchase food and drinks from the vendor rather than bringing their own.
Customers of all studios select their classes based on the particular painting offered that day, selected by studio owners from catalogs of thousands of paintings based on past popularity and the season. Bassolino said that when selecting paintings, she asks herself if that painting is one that she would like to see in her own house.
“Anyone can go to a bar and drink and talk,” said Bassolino. “But here, you’re interacting and doing something.”
Wine and paint studios
Pinot’s Palette Somerville is at 196 W. Main St., Somerville; call 908-393-4847 or visit pinotspalette.com/somerville.
Paint Nite events can be found by visiting paintnite.com.
Wine and Design Rahway is at 88 Route 27, Rahway; call 732-943-7334 or visit wineanddesign.com/locations/rahway.