By Claudie Benjamin
Wish I could paint…that longing, not so much to be an artist or live an artist’s life, but to have the experience of putting paint to canvas and making an image to take home, is not that unusual according to Marci Freede, owner of The Paint Place at 243 West 72nd Street.
She says she was at the right place at the right time, just when the concept of paint and BYOB sip emerged and became a popular kind of social event. “Everyone is considered a beginner,” says this mother of twin daughters who were then 11, and are now in college. Marci is a long time Upper West Sider. She wanted to open a neighborhood business “where I know the people who came here and they know me.”
She had a clear image in her mind of how she wanted the 2nd floor studio to look and what continues to make it distinctively inviting and unintimidating. Every inch of wall space is covered with 16″ x 20″ canvases–exuberantly colored paintings that somehow look like you’ve seen them before.
The familiarity comes about because of The Paint Place’s approach to teaching painting. Marci’s role is primarily administrative but she also selects paintings by well-known artists that will serve as models for each 2-hour class.
It would appear Upper West Siders long for romance and travel as there are quite a few paintings featuring a pair of champagne-filled flutes set at a window table with a view of the Eiffel Tower.
Pre–painting sessions, tables are arranged in rows with each setting marked with a blank canvas propped up and ready for painting. Each participant learns to make their own reproduction of the painting of the day. The instructor paints along with the class and the paintings on the studio wall are those painted by instructors. There is always a great playlist on, and people can sip on their wine that they bring to make the whole experience a satisfying way to spend two hours. The paintings used are a mix of art inspired by selected works of Van Gogh, Monet and others as well as many original paintings created by The Paint Place’s talented instructors.
Paintings used to inspire students also follow seasonal themes “Now, we’re coming into winter. Then we’ll move into spring.” There are also Paint Your Pet classes. These, unlike the other classes, involve requesting participants to send in a photo of their pet the week before class. The pet’s image is sketched in by an instructor and then the participant paints it,” Marci explains. “This is our most popular class as Upper West Siders sure do love their pets.”
The Paint Place has hosted innumerable bridal showers, birthday parties and office holiday parties for major companies including American Express and Chase, although this year the number of office parties has greatly diminished.
What has grown enormously though over the Covid period are virtual classes. These sessions are offered in two ways. The first means purchasing an instructional video from The Paint Place’s virtual library and painting along with the video at your own pace. The other option is private events via Zoom. Here too, art materials are sent to students. This has become a very popular option for companies who are not ready to bring their staff and teams together quite yet.
Although the chance for adults to come into the brightly lit space, sip a glass of red or white wine and ease into painting still brings participants to the studio, Marci says her goal for 2022, is to expand after-school and weekend classes for children and families that already have a following. “Teens who have nothing in particular to do may be dropped off here while their parents catch a night out,” Marci suggests. The programs will be taught by Marci’s team of artists who are chosen for their artistic ability as well as ability to engage students in art as a fun, rewarding activity.