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Release your inner artist

• Paint and Sip a fun, new way to spend the evening with friends

September 2, 2012
By SHAUNNA DUNDER HERSHBERGER - Lifestyles Editor ( , Times Leader

Looking for a fun, unique night out with your friends? Or maybe you have a secret desire to release your inner artist. Either way, you don't have to stray any farther than the historic district of Wheeling Island. Why not try an evening at Paint and Sip?

Growing in popularity nationwide, painting while spending time with friends and sipping on a favorite beverage has also taken off locally at the Phillips McLure House, located at 203 S. Front St. on Wheeling Island. Here, you can attend Paint and Sip, an evening of friends and fun, and leave with a piece of self-made frameable art. And you don't have to be the second coming of Picasso to attend - no artistic ability or experience is necessary.

The Phillips McLure House provides a unique, historically elegant location for the event. The three-story home with spacious rooms, high ceilings and breathtaking architecture provides creative inspiration the minute a student steps inside the door. Built in 1856 by Daniel Zane, the home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Paint and Sip promises an evening of laughter and creativity with your friends and favorite beverages while you paint along with a local artist and go home with a frameable piece of art. Perhaps the best part? No artistic ability or experience is necessary.

Mary Ellen Bennett, current owner of the Phillips McLure House, has used the house for private events, formal teas and as office space, but she was looking for something else to bring people in. When she heard about a Paint and Sip type program in the south, she began researching on the Internet.

Paint and Sip - which goes by different names in different parts of the country, like Canvas and Cocktails, Sip and Paint, Bottles and Brushes - is a franchised industry that has exploded in popularity over the last several years. It competes with "Girls Night Out" activities, as well as martini bars and date night activities. When Bennett spoke to a friend who attended Canvas and Cocktails in the Denver area, she was hooked the minute she saw her friend's photos from the event posted on Facebook.

Bennett and her daughter, Jessica Wheaton, who helps her mother as an instructor and with other things related to Paint and Sip, both have art degrees, and Bennett felt like that, combined with the treat of spending time in such a beautiful, historic home, was a perfect fit. After conducting a trial run with an assortment of people, the feedback was extremely positive. "We thought maybe we were on to something," Bennett explained.

Since classes began regularly in March, things have taken off for Paint and Sip. Classes are offered three nights a week - Wednesday, Friday and Saturday - and they've also booked several private and special events. In addition, they've conducted a handful of Paint and Sips offsite, most notably at the Black Sheep Vineyards in Adena.

Students attending a Paint and Sip just have to bring themselves and their favorite wine or beverage of choice. Everything else is provided, including an 18 x 24 canvas, paint, brushes, apron, instruction and refreshments. Students are given a break halfway through the instruction to enjoy refreshments on the wide front porch, filled with comfortable chairs and tables and adorable porch swings on either end.

Class registration is available online only by visiting Calendars are posted for upcoming months, as different inspirational paintings are chosen from class to class. Bennett said pieces are chosen based on concepts that aren't technically difficult but allow for creativity and self-expression. Some favorite paintings are repeated, and new paintings are always being added.

In addition to a variety of paintings, Paint and Sip also has several instructors. Wheaton instructs Fridays and Saturdays, and on Wednesday nights, Ruth Kiem teaches the class. Other instructors include Debbie Wagner, Julie Boyd and Jenny Mancuso. Classes are $35 and include all materials and instruction and begin at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Class length varies based on size, but usually lasts anywhere from two and a half to three hours. Gift certificates are also available.

Because class size is limited to 17 due to space, Bennett urges anyone wanting to attend a specific evening to sign up quickly. "Don't wait," she said. "They fill up fast."

Paint and Sip is not just for women, and not just for 30 or 40 somethings. Men and adults of all ages are also encouraged to attend. Bennett recalled when one student brought along her mother, who was in her 70s, for Mother's Day. The woman's mother had never painted before and after the event, she remarked that it was one of best Mother's Days she's ever had. Paint and Sip is also working on creating special events for children.

The most important thing that Bennett wished to emphasize is that this is something anyone can do. "About 90 percent of the people who walk through that door think they can't do it, but people are always pleasantly surprised at what they can do with proper instruction."

To find out more about Paint and Sip or to register for a class, visit the website at Photos from previous Paint and Sip classes are posted on the group's Facebook page.



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