Painting while drinking might sound like a sloppy way to spend an evening. But at Splash Studio painting bar, local art proves to be the perfect mixer to any alcoholic beverage.
The newest addition to the Historic Third Ward neighborhood replaced Brothers Cafe on 184 N. Broadway St. in mid-March. Last Friday, it opened to the public with a grand opening celebration that was filled with glow-in-the-dark painting tutorials, dance music and, you guessed it, alcohol.
“There is nowhere like Splash in the country,” said co-founder David Poytinger. “We’re not anybody’s competitor so we’re able to collaborate.”
Already, Splash has donated 10 cents for every “like” they get on Facebook to Artists Working in Education, Inc. Last week, Splash partnered wine tasting with a “create your own painting experience” for Splash @ Swig.
Here’s how the process works: Customers choose from one of Splash’s 33 commissioned paintings as featured on their website. Styles vary from anime to still life, abstract and landscape, and are all created by local artists who are hired by the painting bar. Patrons then reserve a three-hour session with the artist to learn the history, inspiration and process of how to create the selected piece. In the words of the website: paint, drink, repeat.
“Free paint is intimidating, and a blank canvas can be a scary thing,” Co-founder Marla Hahn said.
That’s why having the artists present to kick off the session helps create a sense of comfort. Already, the bar has attracted regulars — people who simply enjoy sitting in the presence of local art. Freelance artist, Beata Chrzanowska, 24, started working with Splash in early March.
“They’re not just pushing the company — they’re giving us spaces,” she said.
And that’s exactly the point. Hahn and Poytinger moved to the Third Ward two years ago after falling in love with the tight-knit community and local art scene. They had been looking to do something in the city in addition to their full-time jobs. Blending Milwaukee’s beer and wine culture with art seemed like the perfect fit.
They worked with emerging artists in the area to come up with a concept that would give them a platform. After being flooded with applications, Hahn and Poytinger picked seven artists with a variety of styles. These hired artists commission pieces that can be taught to customers and use the venue’s wall-space to sell other pieces from their collection. Artists earn 100 percent of the profit from paintings they sell.
“Every element in this bar, we put a lot of thought and care into,” Hahn said.
She and Poyntinger personally built and worked on nearly every aspect of Splash Studio to give customers the most creative, social and cultural experience possible.
“I think this is the right community for this concept,” grand-opening attendee Heather Krause said. “It’s a great idea for people who want to express themselves but do not want to buy all of (the supplies).”
At Splash, adults can pay between $28 and $33 (depending on the night) to receive a 16″x20″ canvas, acrylic paint, an apron and, best of all, no cleanup.
Hahn and Poytinger said artistic talent is not a requirement for Splash sessions. They are simply an opportunity to learn the creative process — no matter how different that may look for each person.
“I really like watching people realize they can do something they did not know they could do,” Poytinger said. “People walk out of here feeling good about themselves.”