Uptown Art is one of the first businesses of its kind in Bellingham.
It is not a restaurant or an art studio. It falls somewhere in the middle; a studio that serves beer and wine as well as a place for people to come and socialize while painting, said Uptown Art owner Robert Mishkin.
“It attracts someone looking for something to do in the evening that’s different,” Mishkin said. “We’re not a bar. We’re not a nightclub. [People] are coming out to do something creative and fun.”
The business model is not anything new. The “paint ‘n’ sip” business originally started in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
“The city was devastated and two women tried to do something to pull the city together,” Mishkin said. “The women found an open place and decided to do painting and serve wine.
“People come in sometimes apprehensive. They haven’t touched a paintbrush in decades, but someone coerced them to come here. They sit down, they open up and they leave with a painting. It’s a nice feeling.”
The business spread from there.
The popularity started in the south then slowly to the rest of the United States. It is a booming business with more than 1,000 different locations around the country.
Mishkin was introduced to this business idea when his girlfriend at the time persuaded him to attend a “paint ‘n’ sip” event in Tennessee. When he left, he brought the business with him to Bellingham three years ago.
“It was a challenge getting people to understand what we do [in the beginning]. Now it’s much easier,” Mishkin said.
The business model is successful, but it does come with a challenging set of circumstances. For Mishkin, one of the most difficult parts is the legislation surrounding the business licenses that places like Uptown Art use.
Washington has three types of licenses available for this type of business, and Uptown Art does not fit any of them.
The restaurant classification does allow people of all ages to come in.
Vicki Opsata has been to Uptown Art three times. After taking part in the classes offered, she started to buy art supplies and explore art as a pastime. She prefers how the classes because they made her feel more prepared to be creative.
“It freed me up to think I could do more art rather than feeling like it has to be perfect,” Opsata said. “It’s freeing. It’s an artistic outlet, so it opened me up to other art mediums.”
Robbine Waters is an Uptown Art newcomer and has been to the studio twice. Viewing it as a creative outlet, she continues to attend the classes offered because of the sense of accomplishment she feels after finishing a piece.
“I’m analytical, so this is like flipping the switch. It’s just neat to let your hair down,” Waters said.
Mishkin is rewarded with the accomplishments of Uptown Art patrons.
“We leave every night feeling we’ve done something good,” Mishkin said. “People come in sometimes apprehensive. They haven’t touched a paintbrush in decades, but someone coerced them to come here. They sit down, they open up and they leave with a painting. It’s a nice feeling.”
The next class offered is Friday, Feb. 3, 6:30-9:30 p.m.