The latest craze in the art world – wine and painting classes – has made its way to Pocahontas County with the help of artist and Creek School House founder Thomas Clevenger.
Bottle and Brush – Clevenger’s name for the painting classes where wine is served – began two years ago when he approached Snowshoe Mountain Resort with his idea to offer classes to mountain visitors.
Clevenger had a “proof of concept” class in September 2015 during the FreeFall Festival, and the classes were a hit.
“We were like two or three days out from FreeFall and they called me and were like, ‘Tom, your classes are already completely full,’” he said. “I was like, sweet.”
Clevenger continued to offer classes on the mountain, but didn’t have a permanent spot and instead, was moved from place-to-place each time a new class was offered.
After the first successful year, Clevenger decided it was time to find a studio. He rented the basement at Silver Creek Resort and is slowly turning it into Creek School House, which, when completed, will have several classrooms for painting, cooking and more.
“Being here has allowed me to add a lot of different stuff to my repertoire which I wanted to do,” he said.
While most painting and wine classes are focused on the instruction side of things, Clevenger said he approaches each class as a fun event where people can relax, enjoy each other’s company and make a piece of art to take home.
“We are advertising it as a fun event – come in, have a few glasses of wine, laugh a little bit and paint a painting that may not be great when you’ve sobered back up,” he said. “It’s a happy hour activity. It’s something to do while you have a couple of sips of wine, or more. You’re taking the edge off.”
The classes attract people of all talent and experience levels, and gives Clevenger a chance to share his love of art with a new groups of people.
“A lot of people are really intimidated by painting,” he said. “It’s really funny to watch. I have people come in all the time and they’re like ‘I’ve never painted before.’ Then they’re like, ‘it’s going to be awful.’ The truth is, you can’t mess it up too bad. Acrylic paint is what we’re using here. It’s very forgiving, dries very quickly. If they make a mistake, we can get it dried up, and they can go right back over it.”
Along with teaching classes at the Creek School House, Clevenger also travels to Elkins and Lewisburg, teaching classes at Vintage Restaurant and the osteopathic school, respectively.
He also offers private parties which can be held at a home, restaurant or at the school house.
“If you can’t make those classes, but you’d like a private party, we can either do it in your home or you can come to the space,” Clevenger said. “What we’re doing now are baby showers and wedding parties. The wedding parties – they’ve kind of just been posting the paintings for people to see at the wedding. So, on Thursday night, the whole bridal party paints a painting and then we put them on easels and show them off at the wedding – sort of as a fun thing.”
Clevenger has a baby shower coming up where guests and family of the expecting family will paint sea turtles for the baby’s nursery.
Clevenger was first introduced to wine and painting classes when he was on vacation in the Outer Banks in North Carolina. He learned the dos and don’ts of the classes and, through online research, he also learned how the painting and wine craze began.
“It started after [Hurricane] Katrina,” he said. “These two artists and teachers down in New Orleans, after Katrina hit, realized that people were rebuilding their houses and their lives, and they probably weren’t going to have any art in their house. So, as a way to socialize and to get the people back out into the French Quarter and in those small regions and areas that were hit, and possibly take home a piece of art for their house, they started these classes.
“Then after a couple people had done it, it just took off and everybody named theirs different things, like ‘paint and sip,’” he continued.
Clevenger has a wide variety of designs for participants to choose from, including winter scenes, Appalachian inspired scenes and holiday themed scenes.
Classes are Fridays and Saturdays, 2 to 4 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. at the Creek School House. For more information or to book a private party, contact Clevenger at 304-572-3811 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at email@example.com