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ArtJamz Revamped As New Venue On The Painting-Drinking-Eating Circuit

Posted: 03/ 9/2012 1:35 pm Updated: 03/ 9/2012 1:46 pm

WASHINGTON -- Tired of the same old dinner-and-a-movie routine? ArtJamz, a pop-up event that combines painting, drinks and live music, has been offering a creative alternative for the last year and a half.

Now, the company is putting down roots inside a new brick-and-mortar venue, opening Friday evening, in Washington, D.C.'s Dupont Circle.

Founder Michael Clements is no stranger to the arts scene. For the past six years, Clements has served as executive editor for Washington Life, a society publication that prides itself on its arts and social scene coverage.

Things are less buttoned-up at ArtJamz. Instead of art instructors, "creative enablers" float among patrons, offering helpful advice when needed. Clements describes them as "private consultants," who can "help you achieve your painting." Patrons create paintings, not from still lifes or paint-by-numbers instructions, but from their own imagination. If that doesn't sound New Age-y, there's Clements' title, which he fashioned himself: chief creative enabler.

"I like to consider myself now an 'art-preneur,'" he said, adding with a laugh. "I figure if I'm inventing a new field, I can name it whatever I want, including my title … I'm just making up things as I go!"

An average evening at ArtJamz, which runs $65, or $45 base price for the pay-as-you-go option, starts with a participant being handed a blank canvas and access to a bountiful supply of paints. Patrons then make like Monet while munching on pizza from Fuel, sipping on wine or beer, and listening to music.

As for the other painting events that have recently popped up -- notably an event by Living Social, Clements is unconcerned.

"[Competition] enables us to focus on a more niche demographic. Like, do you want to stay at Motel 8 or do you want to stay at a ... really cool boutique hotel or the Ritz?" Clements said, adding, "We're the cool boutique hotel."

While the combination art studio-lounge-bar phenomenon is still a novelty in Washington, D.C., other places around the country offer similar services, although few take the same free-wheeling form of ArtJamz. Wine & Palette in Oklahoma City regularly holds painting events in restaurants and wineries, enlisting the help of a professional artist to create a painting, which participants then replicate step by step with a wine glass in hand. The Painted Cork in Folsom, Calif., offers a similar experience, as does Art on the Brix in Golden, Colo. Paint: Lab in Santa Monica, Calif., offers painting-instruction workshops with wine and cheese.

"We're really creating something new and experimenting," Clements said proudly of ArtJamz. "We were a pop-up a year and a half ago, and now we have a retail space. I think it bodes well for [D.C.] that the city is able to kind of nurture and be supportive of these kinds of businesses."

Clements doesn't plan to forget ArtJamz's pop-up origins anytime soon. He's planning a pop-up dinner and painting event with a prominent chef, whom he is not yet willing to reveal. He did let slip that it'll take place April 22, on Earth Day, in an empty Georgetown warehouse. Details have yet to be fully sketched out, but the event may include a theme of a famous artist or art period. It will feature a dinner of several courses, passed on trays by waiters, as patrons paint and eat. It'll likely incorporate some Earth Day themes, as well.

ArtJamz is located at 1742 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.

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