Business Venture or Masterpiece? You Decide
“I like the heart and soul (of the business),” she said. And it doesn’t hurt that they have a “very, very successful business model,” having opened 71 franchises in three and a half years. Something else that proved invaluable is that the founders of PWAT had the good fortune to be mentored by Melanie Bergeron, chairperson of Two Men and a Truck. Wey called her a “wonderful and warm person,” who attended Wey’s grand opening on Oct. 25 and has been “incredibly supportive.” She’s also been back to paint.
So what’s the PWAT experience? “It’s a painting class that’s very social. It’s not a strict technique class.” Oh, and “there’s a lot of music.” Here’s how it works: novice artists (Wey doesn’t like the term “non-artists” because she believes that everyone can paint) go to the PWAT-Lansing website or Facebook page to find a list of paintings to be painted (one per day) in the coming month. See something you’d like to paint? Sign up online, either by yourself, with a friend, some family members or with a group, and show up, ready to be an artist — if only for an evening.
Wey employs six local artist-teachers, one of whom pre-paints the night’s work of art (selected by Wey from the more than 2,600 paintings in the PWAT gallery) prior to the students’ arrival in order to formulate a lesson plan. When the budding artists show up, they start with a blank canvas and occasionally more than a little trepidation. But not to worry. The artist will explain how to mix colors and “tell you which end of the brush to use,” if necessary, Wey said. Everyone paints the same painting, going right along with the artist, who shows you just what to do every step of the way.
Wey said that in virtually every instance, “people leave finding out that they do have art ability,” despite most having come in with what she called “white canvas anxiety.” But by evening’s end, people are “always pleasantly surprised.” And for people who feel like their masterpiece isn’t one quite yet, PWAT offers free “SOS Saturdays,” where people can register and come in to work on their painting. As a result, “I’ve never seen anyone disappointed,” Wey said. “They’re doubtful and then all of a sudden, there are just amazed. (We’ve had) some reluctant attendees for private parties, but they’re the ones in the back going ‘yeah, look what I did!’ They didn’t know they had it in them. It’s fun to watch the transformation of the people that come in and in a two or three hour period, go from ‘I really can’t do this,’ to ‘mine’s way better than yours.'”
PWAT holds private events for groups of 10 or more, and has space for two events at a time. Private events are welcome to cater in meals, bring a bottle of wine (or three) and even pick their own painting. Wey said that in the couple of months they’ve been open, they have received glowing reviews from everyone, and that many, many groups and individuals have already returned, or signed up to do so.
In early December, Wey had her first sellout evening — 48 painters for a studio-hosted event. She called it “very exciting … a dream-come-true night for me,” complete with “Sweet Caroline” playing through the sound system, fist-pumping and much dancing and laughter. In other words, anything but another boring date night over dinner, or sitting quietly in a movie theater. And speaking of date night, Wey said that PWAT is already becoming a popular destination for couples (married and otherwise) seeking an experience above and beyond the age-old dinner and a movie.
PWAT recently introduced Teens Only Tuesdays for young people from 13-17.
“Kids that age need things to do,” Wey said, and with the “no adults allowed” policy, teens can explore their artistic side with their peers. Birthday parties for even younger artists are also popular, thanks to special “hour and a half” paintings available from the PWAT collection.
Paint. Laugh. Learn. Enjoy. And when you’re done, take your masterpiece home. Hang it above your mantle. Let’s face it: with PWAT so close, who needs the Louvre?
Painting With a Twist
Phone: (517) 483-2450
580 Frandor Avenue
Lansing, Michigan 48912
Article by Jack Schaberg | Photos by Thomas Shaver