There has been a lot of discussion lately about the existence of the so called Painting Party. Some people see them as simple entertainment, a way to scrape up a living as an artist. Others think of them as a great way to paint for the first time since grade school. I sit in both camps, so today I'm going to list 10 thoughts that cycle through my mind (and our discussions at Creativity Matters) on a regular basis.
They bring creativity to new people - Art Parties engage an audience who would rarely otherwise access art. It seems silly because they obviously can afford to attend events, but art isn't their top priority. I have yet to see a person at an art party whom I know from my time working at the local gallery. I get it, with art as one of my top priorities, I totally don't engage in some other activities like yoga, politics, writing. Despite not being extremely interested in seeking out art experiences, this person usually still wants creative opportunities but would rather do them with low pressure. If that sounds like you, an art party is a great way to start!
They aren't all done step by step - When someone thinks of a paint party, they imagine cookie cutter paintings. Yes I admit the paintings at the end of the night often look the same, (but my glass painting is unique to every single person, more on that in a minute.) but they are anything but cookie cutter. We explore how to mix colours, we don't paint out of the tube. I recommend a vague ratio of colours to get what I am achieving, then tell them how to make it lighter, darker, brighter, duller. We learn the importance of their texture and the direction of their markmaking. I give them a suggested location for their trees to make them seem realistic in size, weight and structure. I actually can't imagine them learning more even in a private class. (the difference is you can't tell you are learning... Oh man, adults can be just like kids!)
But don't they lack creativity? - Sometimes good art education isn't about creativity, sometimes it is about skills, or gaining familiarity of the materials, or trying something new... BUT WAIT! the creativity is there. You know why Sharon made her water darker? Because her bridge painting is on a stormy day, the ones that remind her of going to the park with her dad. Why did Sue ask how to make pink? Because she was creating a glass about breast cancer, of which she is a survivor. Creative work can still be made within guidelines.
Full art parties mean more arts programming in your community - and not just more art parties. Art Parties generate more income for a business because they are entertainment, and people pay for entertainment in greater amounts than education, in all fields. Imagine if everyone who went to the movies instead wanted to take a film making class! Yes it would be AMAZING. But it isn't realistic. But the income generated from the entertainment can support other workshops that don't make much money, but have high value. A great example is our small but powerful Tea on Tuesdays program.
Art Parties CAN be for artists. Loosen up and try something new. Challenge yourself to go above and beyond by trying a new colour combo or brush stroke. Try pointalism instead of high realism. Make it all a background for your family portrait from memory. Learn how to paint with your opposite hand. Just because you are amongst beginners doesn't mean you have to paint at their level. Plus, wouldn't it be fun to have a drink and paint with your totally art-phobic significant other without BEING the teacher?
You aren't getting the best experience with art at an art party - Art Parties are not a replacement for an art class, or for local art on your walls. You do not get the same value of instruction, materials or experience. At an art party you are distracted by conversation and drinking. Spending time making art is an experience like no other, and it must be experienced to believe. If you like art parties, try an art class. Bring a friend. You will love it! It may even change your life.
Let's get real. Art Parties devalue educated professionals. I have as much schooling as your family doctor, not to mention my 10 years experience working in arts education at public galleries. I have as much research in the importance of creativity and art as your pharmacist has about the importance of not mixing the wrong drugs. Very little of this education and experience is used when running a paint party, because of the level the participants are at. Kind of like asking a head chef to make you a pizza pop, it's in the freezer.
Art Parties do not support artists. They supports artists as entertainers. They don't pay all of the bills, and when their time is spent planning, marketing, registering and presenting, there is as little time to make their own art as their is with a full time job. It brings creativity into your life, at a sacrifice of the artists expense. Respecting that dedication to bringing the arts to their community is important to be recognized.
Your instructor makes cool shit. Not just me, Any paint night leader knows enough about what they are teaching, I guarantee they make cool shit with those skills. Check them out. You just met a real life starving artist.
Finally, art parties offer creative exercise. We use creativity in everything we do. Creativity is the ability to problem solve. It requires thinking for a unique solution that will suit your needs, whether aesthetic or functional. It's your ability to read the world, to excel at your job, to apply learning to your life. It can be done anywhere, in any situation, but you need to exercise it like a muscle or your ability shrinks. A little bit of creativity on a regular basis, at any level, makes sure we can use it when we need it.
At Creativity Matters we try our best to bring quality and value to everything we do. We spend a lot of time figuring out how our programs can provide a needed service, support local artists and still strive for quality and value in the arts. We see art parties as a great way to bring creativity to the lives of those who may not have that much of it otherwise.