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The paint that binds

Novice artists gather at studio to make memories
Spirited Art events allow painters of any – or no – ability to create take-home pieces of art while enjoying the company of friends or family.
If your last artistic endeavor was a childhood paint-by-number or a high school art class, a new Henrico business provides the opportunity to uncork your inner artist and fuel your creative spirit – with 30 or 40 friends if you so desire.

Open since November, Spirited Art is located in West Broad Village, adjacent to The Wine Loft. That’s where the “spirit” comes in.

Individuals and groups who attend painting sessions or classes during Wine Loft hours can order from a menu of flatbreads, sliders, cheese boards and beverages to enjoy while they create.

And the creations? Depending on the night, participants paint may anything from flowers and trees to animals to (the most popular) the Richmond skyline.

No artistic experience is needed; as promotional literature emphasizes, all that painters need to know are their shapes, letters and colors. And it helps to bring a friend and a sense of humor.

On a recent evening, Spirited Art hosted a record crowd of about 65 primarily-amateur artists gathered to paint blue crabs while they raised funds for the non-profit organization Boaz & Ruth, which has transformed the Highland Park community of Richmond by creating jobs, renovating buildings and starting businesses.

Before buckling down to their masterpieces, the painters heard from a Boaz & Ruth spokesperson, who described the organization’s job training sessions, conflict resolution classes and coaching and counseling programs and their empowering effects for participants who had struggled with homelessness, prison and addiction.

“We rebuild [not just] stores and houses,” said the spokesperson, who like most graduates of Boaz and Ruth programs was once incarcerated. “We rebuild lives.”

Family time
After a brief explanation of the process from a Spirited Art guide, and turns with the crab template to outline paintings, 65 heads bent over their canvases and the color-mixing began in earnest. Among the varied groups tackling the task were several residents of Wellesley, members of Christ Church Episcopal (a supporter of Boaz & Ruth), and employees of Free Agents Marketing. Many were encouraged to come by Marilyn Wayland of Free Agents, who organized the fundraising event.

But others who attended independently included the team of Stephanie Evans and her 12-year-old daughter Sarah, who decided to share one canvas and paint their crustacean as a collaborative effort. Their cousin and friend, Tracey Papas, was on her fourth trip to Spirited Art and had invited the Evans to join her for some family bonding.

“It’s a good summer outing,” said Stephanie Evans, as she and Sarah fine-tuned the shade of pink that would form the crab’s background.

“And nice mother-daughter time.”

Insight
On another recent afternoon, a group of 30 employees from Capital One gathered in the Spirited Art studio to paint one of the most popular subjects – the Richmond skyline – while doing some corporate team-building.

The atmosphere at the studio lends itself easily to team-building activities, say the owners, because it gets colleagues outside the comfort zone of their offices, breaks down workplace barriers and puts everyone on a more-or-less equal footing -- not to mention building camaraderie and injecting fun and humor into the mix.

In addition, participants finish the session with a memento to take home or back to the office – typically the skyline painting, but sometimes a corporate symbol or abstract piece of art. A group of 40 employees from University of Richmond, for example, all contributed to the same masterpiece: a multiple-paneled portrayal of the UR gazebo.

And after a visit by the Bon Secours Memorial School of Nursing, faculty member Trina Gardner told the Spirited Art staff, “We had no idea what to expect of this adventure, but we ended up with some excellent paintings – and insight into our true personalities!”

Among other Henrico groups and corporations that have visited Spirited Art for team-building events, said co-owner Dami Snyder, are Snagajob, Henrico County Schools, AmeriFinancial and CapTech. And although the Capital One group decided to focus on the social aspects for their experience, groups can also choose to add a challenging exercise or two. In one such exercise, explained Snyder, colleagues reach the halfway point of the session and take their communal break – only to hear the announcement that after the break, everyone will
move three seats over and resume painting on someone else’s canvas.

“It’s a good lesson,” said Snyder, pointing out that the exercise highlights surprises and setbacks that can occur in the typical workplace. “You don’t always get the project you want,” she noted as one example. “You may get a project better than you thought you’d get. And you may walk into a hot mess!”

‘I missed art in my life’
Although Spirited Art is new to the Richmond area, the concept is based on similar successful programs in Huntsville, Little Rock and Knoxville. Lauren McCormick, who is Snyder’s sister and one of four co-owners of the Richmond site, said that once she visited the Alabama location, she could hardly wait to open a similar spot back home in Richmond. When she had become a mother, said McCormick, her artistic pursuits had fallen by the wayside. “I missed art in my
life,” she said.

Despite the obstacles posed by restrictive Virginia ABC laws, which forbade the BYOB format of other Spirited Art sites, the owners persevered. Learning that the space next door to The Wine Loft was available, she approached Jeff Ottaviano of The Wine Loft about a partnership. By Thanksgiving 2011, Spirited Art Richmond was off and running, with little more than word-of-mouth advertising.

As the Boaz and Ruth event wound to a close July 24 – at $1,120 in proceeds, Spirited Art’s biggest fundraiser to date – it was clear that the session had not only made a substantial sum for charity, but had also made a substantial number of memories.

Tracey Papas, in fact, made a point of flipping her canvas over and telling the Evanses that she had recorded their names for posterity. “I always write on the back of it,” Papas told them, “about who I was with.”

Across the room, 90-year-old Irma Rich beamed for the camera held by her daughter-in-law Adrienne Rich of Free Agents, while noisy groups of co-workers and neighbors posed proudly with their paintings for photos for the Spirited Art Facebook page. And next to the Evanses, a professional artist from Chesterfield wrapped up her fourth crab painting and speculated on which charity might be the recipient of her latest effort.

A frequent studio visitor, Sally Valentine has already painted a half dozen projects for the purpose of donating them to silent auctions at charity events. The last time she painted a crab, it raised $85 for a fundraiser for the Cape Charles Museum; another Spirited Art painting made $185 at a separate silent auction.

But generating money for charity, said Valentine, is not the only thing she enjoys about her visits to Spirited Art. The evening sessions allow her a chance to get out and meet interesting people, while also freeing her from distractions and enforcing a built-in time limit.

“It’s great,” said Valentine, “that you can come here and and sit down and paint – and it forces you to finish it!”

For details about Spirited Art, call 360-5909 or visit http://www.myspiritedart.com/locations/richmond-va


Community

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden raises admission $1

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s admission has increased by $1 across all categories. Admission is now $12 for adults; $11 for seniors ages 55 and older; and $8 for children ages 3–12. Admission remains free for children ages 3 and younger and for members.

The last price increase was in 2011, before the Garden consistently hosted Butterflies LIVE! (which is included with admission). > Read more.

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Take in a show at several locations this weekend! West End Comedy will provide laughs at HATTheatre; the production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” will close Sunday; and the youth theatre company CharacterWorks will present “Footloose” at The Steward School. Another show perfect for the kids – “Despicable Me 2” is playing at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center tonight. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Is there an Echo in here?

‘Earth to Echo’ aims to become this generation’s ‘ET’
It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.

But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.

That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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