NORTH ADAMS

When local sisters and artists Kira Guidon and Sarah Holland decided to offer adult art classes in a social setting, it was an experiment that quickly took on a life of its own.

The first event sold out in 12 hours, with no more advertising than a post on Facebook, Guidon said. All three of their March events have since sold out and they are beginning to schedule events in April, including a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

The Progressive Palette is a mobile sip and paint business, which will soon be offering events and private parties throughout Berkshire County, and possibly beyond.

"It is an interesting idea on a number of levels," Guidon said. "People want creative outlets and the trend of just sitting in a bar has faded. It turns out people are looking for a healthy outlet. We want to take it to the next level and make it accessible to everyone."

Guidon and Holland, who both hold degrees in visual arts and arts management, also own Stone Home Studio Design in North Adams, through which they create large-scale custom murals for homes and businesses. But the Progressive Palette is quickly becoming their main business, Guidon said.

The events are exactly as they sound. Amateur artists pay a fee to attend the event. Among friends and strangers, fellow amateurs, they relax, have a beverage of their choosing and some snacks and learn, step-by-step, how to paint a specific scene, which they take home at the end of the evening and can proudly display in their own homes.

The sip-and-paint trend has been sweeping the country for the last several years, with events and studios popping up in most major cities, including several large franchises known by the names Painting with a Twist, Pinot's Palette and Paint Nite, to name a few.

The trend is not really new to Berkshire County, however. Bisque, Beads and Beyond, an arts and crafts supply store in Pittsfield, has been offering social art classes for 11 years. The cork and canvas industry, as owner Donna Todd Rivers calls it, is an off-shoot of the paint-your-own pottery trend that first became popular in the early 2000s.

Todd Rivers opened her 4,000-square-foot North Street store at the height of that trend and has since offered multiple forms of "social artworking," including pottery painting, jewelry making and canvas painting.

"Every couple of years, we try to add something new," she said.

Bisque, Beads and Beyond, which was remodeled last fall, includes an open art studio, where there is always an instructor on the floor to help. They also offer one-print classes, which include cork and canvas nights, coffee and canvas on Sundays and cookies and canvas for kids.

Clients range from professional artists to amateurs, Todd Rivers said. Some local companies have even signed on for art classes as a team-building exercise, she said.

"It is a model that is being watched nationwide," Todd Rivers said, adding it is not really a competitive market. "The more people that get creative, the better for all of us."

The Progressive Palette differs from Bisque, Beads and Beyond in that it is a mobile business, which currently offers two-hour social art classes in a variety of locations, as well as private parties.

By working with local businesses to offer classes, Guidon said the benefits are two-fold: the classes become accessible to more people and it brings new people into existing businesses.

Their first event takes place Saturday at Union Station, a fitness center in North Adams, where 30 participants will try their hand at a landscape painting, taught by Guidon and Holland. The Progressive Palette provides all of the brushes, paints and canvases, as well as appetizers. Participants bring their own beverages. The cost is $30 per person. When that event sold out in less than a day, the sisters added a second date at that location, which is also booked to capacity.

On March 18, Guidon will teach participants to re-create the famous painting by Claude Monet, "Water Lilies." Only a majority of it will be done by finger painting, she said. The class, called, Martinis and Monet, takes place at Hops and Vines in Willliamstown, where appetizers will be provided by the restaurant and participants may buy their drinks, including a drink special being created for the night.

Most of the painters signed up so far are completely new to painting, Guidon said.

"People ask, ‘Is it OK if I only excel at stick figures?' " she joked, adding, "I tell them ‘No skill is required. Just bring your sense of humor.' "

In addition to the public events, the Progressive Palette has already booked two private parties, both to take place at private homes. Private parties start at $300 and the host supplies the drinks.

The sip and paint events tend to appeal to ladies first, but several participants have signed up with their significant others for a date night, Guidon said.

"I really didn't expect this kind of response," she said. "We put it out there, but we didn't know if people would spend the time or money on themselves. I was so wrong."

In addition to adding events to their calendar, Guidon said she would like to see the Progressive Palette offer programs during the day at elder care facilities.

"It is not just about drinking and painting," she said. "It is more about appreciating the process and having fun."


For more information

Visit The Progressive Palette's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/theprogressivepalette

Visit Bisque, Beads and Beyond online at www.bisquebeadsbeyond.com