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VOL. 125 | NO. 1 | Monday, January 4, 2010

ARTjamN Makes Painting Fun for All

By Tom Wilemon

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DRIBBLE READY: ARTjamN provides a 1,100-square-foot space where people can have fun painting to music without worrying about making a mess. The new business opens Thursday at 2160 Young Ave.

Maria and Steve Parham, the owners of ARTjamN, want people to enjoy a night out on the easel.

Their new business supplies the easel, the canvas, the paint and the place for people to depict landscapes, daub abstract creations or simply splash out their frustrations.

ARTjamN will begin offering easy access to painting at 5 p.m. Thursday. The opening of the new business at 2160 Young Ave. coincides with “First Thursday Night Out” festivities in Cooper Young.

For $40, a customer can paint for up to two-and-a-half hours. That’s cheaper than a lot of bar tabs, so an ARTjamN customer can wake up with a painting instead of a hangover.

But the Parhams aren’t teetotalers. They say their customers are welcome to bring in a bottle of wine to sip while they paint. ARTjamN is not an artist studio with strict rules. It’s a place to paint while you cut up, laugh and jam out to music. They call it “paintertainment.”

“This is a non-judgmental, no-skills-needed, come and paint and enjoy yourself space,” she said. “The point is for people to be creative and to enjoy their creativity and find it – and to give them permission to be creative. I think it is nurtured out of you when you are small.”

Big, happy kids

Maria Parham, who has a graphic design degree from the University of Memphis, has worked in the commercial sector as an artist and has taught art classes. She came up with the idea of promoting jam sessions for painting about a year ago.

“I tried this out with family and friends, bachelorette parties and some corporate team-building exercises also,” she said. “I realized that I needed a place, an actual location, because the portability was very labor intensive, the setting up and then also getting paint on the floor – those types of issues.”

The location the Parhams chose was formerly occupied by an art gallery.

“This spot was just perfect,” she said. “It was ready to go as far as paint on the floor, and it already had track lighting. I went ahead and took the leap. I think it is going to be fun.”

The Parhams plan special promotions for holidays, such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, as well as personalized special events, such as weddings, reunions and retirement parties.

Creative guidance

Although customers are encouraged to express their individual creativity, they aren’t on their own with a paint brush and blank canvas.

“There’s also a guided art jam for people who need a little more assistance or encouragement, so you can choose free style or guided,” she said. “With the guided, I will actually walk you through step-by-step how to paint a particular painting. With free style, you can come up with a concept or something out of a magazine or a sketch that you’ve done and come in and paint your own painting in whatever size you want.”

The fee is $40 to paint a 16-by-20-inch canvas, but the cost goes up with larger canvases. On opening night, the first 100 people who stop into the business will be asked to paint a miniature canvas for free. The Parhams plan to hang the miniature paintings on a wall inside the business.

Another wall in the 1,100-square-foot space will be devoted to the pet portraits Maria Parham paints. Besides ARTjamN events, she also plans to teach six- and eight-week courses in painting.

The paint supplied for ARTjamN events will be limited to acrylic.

“It dries fast, which is what we need for the two-and-a-half hour event,” she said. “Everybody can use it. The colors are really easy to blend. It’s not complicated. For a novice painter, somebody who has never painted before, they need that ability.”

Art of diversification

The Parhams’ future plans include developing packages with restaurants in Cooper-Young so friends, families or couples on a date can combine the ARTjamN experience with dining out. They also are exploring the possibility of having musicians perform while people paint. Another business angle is hosting corporate team-building events.

“Some men don’t want to do this, but once they start, they love it,” she said. “I’ve had some die-hard mechanic-type men participate. They really enjoyed it and were really proud of what they did. It’s just getting them over that hurdle.”

But so far Steve Parham has missed out on the fun.

“I’ve painted the bathroom,” he said. “I paint interior walls, exterior walls. I haven’t tried my hand at a canvas yet.”

Maria Parham laughed, confessing that he’s had a big honey-do list preparing for the opening of the business.

“Maybe opening night?” she asked.

“You never know,” he answered.

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