August 23, 2012

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Alcohol has been a boost and a bane for many an artist. From Toulouse-Lautrec to Jackson Pollock and more recently Thomas Kinkade, many artists were imbibers who more often than not let drink douse their creative spirit. But let it not be said that a drink has never soothed the nerves of an aspiring artist. Or in the words of Emily Hopper: Some people just need to chill out.

Hopper is the owner and operator of Spirited Art, the new studio at Hamilton Place where novice artists can gather as much for camaraderie and a social evening out as much as art instruction. And they can drink while they create.

“A lot of people find a glass of wine chills them out,” Hopper said. “But once they start painting they mostly forget about the wine because they’re having so much fun.”

Hopper’s new studio store, open for less than two months, is the latest in a growing franchise first launched in Huntsville, Ala. Spirited Art offers nightly classes where students recreate one of hundreds of pre-selected paintings in a low-key atmosphere made laid back by the addition of wine.

For $35, would-be Picassos select a class online featuring a painting they’d like to recreate themselves, all art supplies and instruction included. Less than three hours later, students walk away with a piece of art and, said Hopper, perhaps some new friends.

“The response so far has been great,” Hopper said. “People who haven’t held a brush since grade school are surprised at what they can do.”

Hopper herself is an example. The outgoing entrepreneur had no formal art training, but discovered an innate talent for painting in college. On her way through law school in Huntsville, Hopper encountered Rebekah Bynum, founder of Spirited Art and Hopper’s mentor.

Bynum’s brainchild grew out of a social circle who gather to paint, converse and enjoy wine. A trained artist and young mother of two, Bynum was seeking to combine her passion for art with “adult time” with friends. She opened her first studio in 2007. As word and popularity grew, Bynum realized she had a viable franchise on her hands and hired Hopper as expansion manager to open new stores. Since then, Spirited Art studios have cropped up in Knoxville, Little Rock, Ark., Richmond, Va., and now Chattanooga.

 Make no mistake—Spirited Art is less about creating great art than having a good time. Like Bynum, Hopper found herself a natural instructor whose easy-going style puts nervous first-timers at ease.

“Most people don’t know how to paint,” she said. “But we make it simple, easy and fun.”

Students simply show up along or with friends each evening at 6 p.m. for the nightly classes, “uncork their creativity,” as the store’s slogan goes, and sit down to small easels to create a work of acrylic art they can take home in two hours.

“It’s all very basic and easy,” Hopper said. “And with a friend and a little wine, we like to think we can inspire people to have fun and be creative.”

The only down side? Some students become so entranced painting and talking with friends, leading to the other half of Spirited Art’s slogan: “Don’t drink the paint water.”

Spirited Art is located at 1925 Gunbarrel Road, Ste. 115. For more information, call (423) 531-6278 or visit


August 23, 2012

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