As ’80s rock anthem “Eye of the Tiger” played in the background, two dozen women and men focused on the task in front of them — putting their own unique twist on re-creating Gustav Klimt’s “Tree of Life” painting.
Armed with brushes, acrylic paint, canvas, easels and, in some cases, a glass or two of wine, the group spent several hours on a recent night chatting, laughing, eating snacks and sipping drinks while tapping into their creative side.
It’s a scene that plays out most evenings at Village Canvas and Cabernet, which opened in September at 6457 Frances St., in Aksarben Village. The locally owned, independent business is a “paint and sip” venue and also includes gallery space with works for sale by local artists.
Owner Kathy Byrnes of Omaha said the idea is to paint, relax and enjoy a night out with friends.
“It’s art as entertainment. It’s social, it’s relaxed,” said Byrnes, who owns the shop with her husband, John. He works as an IT professional, and the couple is also part of the group that runs the Hot Shops Art Center in north downtown.
Guests sign up online at canvasandcab.com to attend a 2˝-hour painting session of their choice. They can select from featured paintings that include florals, still lifes, animals, abstract shapes, landscapes, Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” and others. Recently added paintings include several holiday- and winter-themed works. Byrnes plans to change the selections regularly.
An instructor, usually a local artist or art educator, guides participants step by step to re-create the night’s featured painting. Aprons, easels, brushes, paint, canvas and other supplies are provided. Wine, beer and a variety of non-alcoholic beverages are available for purchase, and guests can bring their own snacks if they want. At the end of the night, everyone leaves with a finished piece.
CaSandra Johnson, who teaches art at Daniel J. Gross High School, is among the instructors at Canvas and Cabernet. When she wasn’t at the front of the room painting along with the class, Johnson walked around to answer questions and offer painting tips.
Most who attend don’t have an art background and aren’t there to learn to paint, she said, but to have fun. The idea isn’t for participants to replicate the featured painting but to express their creativity and interpret it however they wish.
None of the paintings that night were alike. There were trees with bare, spiraled branches and others accented with colorful leaves. Some backgrounds and skies were yellow or pink, and some were painted in shades of blue and green.
For Holly Carey of Omaha, being able to do a hands-on, creative activity is part of the event’s appeal. Carey, who was there with her sister for a girls’ night out, said the session is a fun alternative to going to a bar and something she looked forward to doing again.
Other participants that night included a group of co-workers from Cox Communications. Jane Blasi, the company’s vice president of human resources, brought seven of her employees to Canvas and Cabernet for a team-building activity. Blasi said she could’ve taken them bowling but “wanted something different.”
“This takes them out of their comfort zone,” she said. “None of us are artists.”
Byrnes said her venue has been popular with everyone from couples on a first date to Junior League outings. “We’re always looking for social things to do with someone, to come together and share an experience,” she said.
Dozens of paint-and-sip businesses have popped up in cities across the country, including Lincoln. Omaha will have another one when Uncorked Paint & Sip Studio opens next month at Bel-Air Plaza, 12100 West Center Road.
Uncorked will hold an open house Jan. 18 with an art show and live music. The public is welcome to attend and check out the space, said co-owner Jaime Vermeer, who will serve as one of the studio’s painting instructors.