Participants start painting during a being-your-own-beverage event hosted by Laura Comito at Artworks Studio in Carroll.
Participants start painting during a being-your-own-beverage event hosted by Laura Comito at Artworks Studio in Carroll.
April 23, 2014

If you like a taste for the finer things in life, a Happy Hour painting class may be for you.

The trend - gather a few girlfriends and head to a studio for an evening out drinking wine and painting a canvas to take home - has spread throughout the region in recent months.

But it is no longer just a studio class, said Laura Comito, owner of Artworks Studio in Carroll. Since she began holding bring-your-own-beverage classes, she has been recruited for fundraisers, private parties, bridal showers and team-building workshops.

She has been booked every weekend - Thursday, Friday and Saturday - since Christmas. Often the painters are having so much fun, they forget to drink their beverage -alcoholic or otherwise, said Comito.

The usual cost of $35 includes the canvas, paint, brushes and apron. With a firm belief that "painting and chocolate go hand in hand," she also tries to keep sweet and salty snacks on hand in the studio.

Comito collaborates loosely with Jolene Peters, a nurse at Coon Rapids-Bayard schools. Peters started her career in commercial art in 1985 as owner of a stamp shop in Perry.

"I've just always done creative things, and I love teaching people," she said.

It was Peters who initially encouraged Comito, who teaches children at her studio throughout the week, to start teaching adult classes as well.

"I think it's a gateway," Peters said, stating her fears that imposing budget cuts in education could eliminate art classes if there are not enough interested people to fight for them.

"If they know they can paint this, I think they'll look at other projects and say, 'I can do that.' It's a great way to get people who don't do art, doing art."

She first saw a wine-and-painting class advertised in Des Moines and noted that the Carroll area lacked a fun, local option.

Interest grew almost faster than the women could keep up, and Peters began to teach most of the evening classes in towns surrounding Carroll, including Manning, Jefferson, Paton, Coon Rapids and Perry.

Though the pair are not yet business partners, they prefer to consider themselves "cohorts" as opposed to competition, paying one another to assist with classes or swap supplies or designs as needed. But Comito is hoping to increase her studio space and possibly formalize the working relationship.

Combined, they have experience in nearly every medium from paint to collage to mosaic, giving them plenty of options to diversify their classes and keep them interesting and fresh, Peters said.

Additionally, while many of the franchise classes limit the paint colors in a class, Comito and Peters tote a variety of colors, allowing participants to "individualize" their pieces more, or to paint to accent a specific room decor in their homes, added Comito. A class begins with a basic design - such as a flower, flag or word collage - but each person paints it a little different.

The response has been positive, and participants leave with increased confidence.

"I've had people come in and say they were told in high school or grade school that art isn't for everyone," Comito said.

She tries to "take the scary out of it."

"It's art," she said. "There are no mistakes."

When she helps with a fundraiser, Comito donates $10 of each participation fee directly to the organization. One of her most popular events was for the Auburn Public Library, which has scheduled Comito for a return visit. Peters conducted a fundraiser for Des Moines Area Community College in Boone and actually had the college president participate. Both are currently working with American Cancer Society Relay for Life teams in Carroll and Greene counties.

Comito's next event is a fundraiser for Animal Rescue of Carroll from 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday at Greasewood Flats Ranch. Participants will be able to choose between painting a dog or a pair of cats.

The event, which will include a social hour and silent auction, will begin at 6 p.m. The cost is $45 - $20 of which will go directly to the shelter. To reserve a space, contact the shelter at 790-9116 or contact Comito at 775-2035.