Arts & Culture

Enjoy a cocktail and get artistic at Paint Nite or Paint ‘n’ Sip

Dana Oland
Dana Oland

The roar at Cheerleaders Sports Grill last week wasn’t because of a game or a darts tournament. It was art. The back room was filled with table-top easels and canvases and nearly 60 artists — mostly women — in green aprons who were there to party and paint.

Welcome to Paint Nite, a new social event now happening in the Treasure Valley.

Based in Boston, Paint Nite holds about 4,000 events across the country each month, run by local license holders like Boise’s Lene O’Dell. She started producing her art nights at bars and restaurants such as Cafe Ole at Boise Towne Square and now Cheerleaders near Boise State University in March.

Locally owned Paint ’n’ Sip, a company with a similar concept, opened three years ago. It holds events at its wine bar at 5626 W. State St., Boise, and produces private parties and corporate events. Owner Jennifer Godoi also offers open studio time, produces en plein air events and often partners with local wineries and Boise Parks and Recreation.

It all puts art as the main event.

This is art light, and fun heavy, with no previous experience required. Both companies use artwork that can be completed in three to five coachable steps. Paint Nite draws from its national data base of paintings. Paint ’n’ Sip uses art created by its team of local artists, who also coach — and do some teaching — at the events. The water-based acrylic paint dries quickly, so you’re in and out in about two hours, with your artwork in hand.

Last week’s Cheerleaders’ Paint Nite was O’Dell’s biggest so far. She does about 15 each month.

The two-for-one ladies night drink special and pulsating dance music kept the pace lively. Gangs of women on a girls night out, families, friends and a few couples on an art-date night sipped wine, beer and cocktails, making sure to drink their drinks, not their paint water. They all focused on the same image, “Evening Fireflies.”

O’Dell, a workers compensation claims manager, grew up in Kuna. When she moved to Salt Lake City for her job a few years ago, she went to a Paint Nite event as a way to meet people.

“I had such a good time that I thought, ‘I have to bring this to Boise when I go back,’” she said “It’s not just going to a bar and drinking. You’re doing something more creative.”

O’Dell did several example paintings that she peppered throughout the room.

Everyone paints the same image, but no two look alike.

Neeka Rodgers and her fiancée, Daniel Rodriguez, sat side by side, but their paintings were very different in the end. Rodgers’ was more moody, Rodiguez’s contained a bright swath of hot pink underneath.

“I’m more extroverted, but he’s more positive,” she said.

Melanie Pinkston of Boise gathered eight friends and came to Paint Nite through Groupon. The women met working together at an office in the 1990s. “We’ve carried our friendships on through the years, and we get together and go out each month,” Pinkston said.

Paint Nite was ideal, she said.

“We’re having so much fun,” Pinkston said, “We’ll definitely do this again.”

Her friend Stella Shea found the experience surprisingly therapeutic.

“We all had hectic days and doing this was so relaxing. I’d totally do it again. I might even get some paint and start doing it on my own,” said Shea of Boise. Her friends laughed. “I’m not kidding.”

The magic of experiences like this is that people who think they aren’t creative discover that they are. Sarah Bastain was here at her second Paint Nite with her husband, Dan.

“I can’t even draw a stick figure, but by the time I was done, I was shocked at how good it came out,” Bastain said. “I’ll definitely be back.”

That kind of enthusiasm is good for business for O’Dell and the restaurants.

“This is really cool,” said Cheerleaders manager Robert Walker. “Ladies night is pretty good for us, but to have 60 more (people) come in here is amazing. A lot of them came early and had dinner.”

Waitress Stephanie Cluney didn’t know what to think when she drew the painting party, but after an hour she was hooked.

“When they started setting up and they pulled out canvases, I was like, ‘Wow, a couple of drinks and some painting?’ That’s my kind of night,” she says. “I want to join in next time.”