Out of tragedy often comes inspiration. That’s how Painting with a Twist, an art entertainment studio, opened for business.
After Hurricane Katrina hit their hometown and the New Orleans area, Mandeville, La., residents Cathy Deano and Renee Maloney witnessed many people suffering around them, and their own homes and businesses were completely flooded. The close friends decided to start fresh with a new business that would provide both relaxation and entertainment.
Their original idea began as a single shop where people could gather with a glass of wine and a snack, relax and create artwork. Painting with a Twist was born and grew into a well-received art entertainment studio that hosted birthday parties, bachelorette parties and family and employee gatherings.
Now, four years later with more than 54 franchises and four company stores in 11 states, the concept comes to the Memphis area. Owned and operated by Chris and Tovah Mitchell, Painting with a Twist in Germantown presents an ongoing selection of paintings customers can create at private parties, date nights or family days.
For novice painters, one of the best aspects of Painting with a Twist is that a local artist provides step-by-step instruction in creating the art from an existing painting, while the painters can incorporate their own personal touches. Guests leave a session with their painting completed and ready to hang in their home.
Originally from Fort Worth, Texas, the Mitchells attended several Painting with a Twist parties in Texas and became so enamored with the idea that they decided to move to the Memphis area to open a studio. Other Tennessee locations are in Murfreesboro and Knoxville.
"The market was just right here," Tovah Mitchell explained. "These aren’t serious art classes, but more about entertainment and fun with friends." The studio accommodates up to 42 people per gathering and includes a private party room for up to 30 people.
Opening night for Painting with a Twist was challenging but exciting, she said, when a thunderstorm left the studio without power. However, guests stayed for the party and created their paintings by the glow of emergency lighting and cell phone lights. Tammy Chandler of Millington came to the party to celebrate the birthday of a friend. "It (the party) was definitely a unique experience, and wildly enough, despite the darkness, everyone’s paintings turned out great." She has her painting hanging in her home. "Even if you aren’t an artist, you feel like one when you leave with your masterpiece."
The local artists who instruct painting sessions undergo rigorous training by the company to prepare for teaching classes. They learn how to explain art terms in a way that a beginner can understand and accomplish.
Meagan Chaudoin, who attended Memphis College of Art, said that prior to leading an event she paints the piece and then breaks it down into manageable tasks for the guests. She keeps the mood light and relaxed with music playing in the background as she speaks. She teaches from a stage where the finished painting is displayed, and she recreates the piece on another canvas as she paints along with class, stroke by stroke.
The website provides a monthly calendar with painting options, such as "Cobblestone Walk," "Lavender Fields Forever," "Wisteria Gate," "Silly Gold Fishy" and "Pink Lotus Flowers." Painting selections change frequently from the company’s base of more than 1,300 paintings.
The 16-by-20 canvases, which are placed on table-top easels, are provided, as are the acrylic paint, brushes and aprons, so painters can concentrate on painting and conversation with friends. They can bring their favorite snacks and beverages to enjoy while they paint, too.
In addition to Family Days for parents to enjoy with their children age 7 and up, Painting with a Twist also offers SOS Saturdays once a month when people can come and touch up their painting from a previous session at no cost.
When Deano and Maloney began the business in 2007 with one shop, they had no aspirations to grow the business. But when Maloney’s mother moved to Metairie, La., the women decided that maybe two shops would be manageable. "That’s when our business really exploded," explained Deano. Their first franchise opened in 2009, and business has increased steadily since then.
"When you know an artist is going to walk you through your painting step-by-step, you don’t feel intimidated, and you leave feeling like you accomplished something," Maloney said.