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Wine and Canvas wants to prove you can paint

Wine and Canvas Grand Rapids features local artists giving step by step painting instructions in a relaxed atmosphere.

Learn more:

  • Upcoming events can be found here
  • Contact information  here



Within the last few years a new type of business has come to Grand Rapids, teaching anyone that they can learn to paint. Wine and Canvas Grand Rapids is "art entertainment," says owner Cheryl Vander Vliet. For many customers, it's a girls night out, a date night for couples, a corporate event or party where you get an art lesson while eating, drinking and conversing with others.

"I went as a customer in Indiana and that's when I learned of the company and concept," Vander Vliet says. "I really enjoyed it and always wanted to own my own business." Since opening, Wine and Canvas has held events all over Grand Rapids, with different locations every day, including The B.O.B., the Amway Grand, various breweries and expos at the DeVos Center.

"We probably have 50 venues we go to in Grand Rapids," Vander Vliet says. She knew when she decided to open that Grand Rapids would be a good fit because of the art friendly community and all of the artists at Wine and Canvas are local. She says that is what sets them apart from other, similar companies.

"It's all original artwork. Local artists coming up with their own designs," she says of the paintings the instructors use to teach the customers. Many of their paintings are Grand Rapids themed. Besides having a good time, the goal, Vander Vliet says, is that people learn how to paint. Everyone starts with a blank canvas and the artist leading the class takes customers step by step through the painting until they are ready to walk home with their canvas ready to hang on the wall.

Wine and Canvas has about eight artists. Most of them hold art degrees and all have to be certified to maintain quality and standards. Two of their artists were featured in ArtPrize last year.

"I thought it was an interesting idea. I never thought of having a one-time class before but it's a fun way for people to try something they would be afraid to try otherwise," says Katie Johnson, one of the artists, who earned her MFA in painting at Kendall College. Johnson says the hardest part is getting nervous people to relax and have fun, but once they get started they realize how much fun they are having and stop worrying about how the painting will turn out. "It's a more relaxed atmosphere. It's more about enjoying painting and less the grading. They can experience art in a non-intimidating way, being a bit creative without having to have a lot of background knowledge," Johnson says.

Another artist, Diane Goddard, says occasionally newcomers might slow classes down a little and need extra attention, but most everybody is eager to learn and repeat customers are very common.

"Some people have come 10 or 12 times. It gives them a high and makes them come again and again," she says. After one or two events, Goddard says even the most nervous people gain confidence in their ability. To her, the best part of teaching painting at Wine and Canvas is seeing how proud people are  when they finish a painting.

"They say 'oh my gosh, I didn't ever think I could paint but it turned out great.' That's what you want to hear," she says.

Lisa Brooks, a customer who went to a private event for her future daughter-in-law's bachelorette party said she had no painting skills but was amazed at how easy they made it. "They're really good at step-by-step instructions," Brooks said. After the teacher would show them the basics of how to do a part of the painting, the participants would be encouraged to put their own twist on it. "It was interesting to see the interpretations that everybody had from what she showed us," Brooks said.

While she said socializing and laughing with everyone else about their own designs was her favorite part, Brooks says going to a class got her interested in learning more about painting, and she wants to go again. "I was amazed how you could take a single brush stroke and do it six times around and next thing you know you have a flower."

Brooks says she is proud of her painting and it is hanging up in her house for everyone to see. She thinks everyone should try it at least once and not be afraid that they can't do it.

"If you can hold a paint brush, you can paint," she says. "Even if you think you can't paint they will show you that you can."

To learn more about Wine and Canvas, view the event calendar, or schedule a private event, go to their website.

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