Collett, who’s ArtVine sessions combine art classes with pub drinking at venues across Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, spoke to The Morning Advertiser.
What led you to the idea for ArtVine?
“A couple of years ago we (immediate family) were in a pub in Llanberis in Gwynedd, north Wales – which does a 'pizza and a pint' – having a chat about ways to get some more art teaching going, when my good lady suggested "painting and a pint".
“A bit of Googling later showed that this is not such a new idea, with 'sip and paint' well established in America.
“Obviously the model works, so I started up.”
Why do you think pubs and art mix well?
“There are lots of inter-connected things here.
“I often hear from customers that they always wanted to try an art class but did not know where, or how, or found the art schools too daunting.
“Not only does a pub provide a ready-made venue, it is more than just a building. Everyone knows their local pubs; they are familiar, comfortable and informal, all things that help the more intimidated try an art lesson. If it is in a pub it cannot be that ‘serious’ so others will be less judgmental of their efforts.
“Other local venues, village halls, libraries, etc, do not have this relaxed atmosphere.
“The fact that food and drink is available, and encouraged, also makes the event more social. I try to get a bit of a tea party atmosphere laying out a big table with the paints so people have to interact – ‘pass the yellow please’ – on this table are also the snacks, bottles of wine, glasses, etc.
“Conversely, some people just want a different kind of night out. Still with food and alcohol, but something new to do. I often have couples coming to these as a less run-of-the-mill date. Again, being in a pub helps this.”
Do you think mixing alcohol and art encourages a visitor’s creative side?
“Coming back to the daunting nature of an art class and worries about judgment – many people have not painted since school and are very self-conscious of their efforts – all these are alleviated by a glass or two of wine so, yes, alcohol does help their creativity.”
What has the response been from customers and pub operators to the classes so far?
“All very positive so far.
“I have a very simple measure for this: firstly, the pubs let me back! I am often booked with them six weeks in advance, which means they are happy to risk losing that odd big booking (wedding, funeral, etc) in exchange for the community my events are building.
“Secondly, the people come back and bring their friends. I have regulars attending every month and this support is growing, as I said above building a community.”
Do you have a rough idea of how much pubs so far have taken as a result of the classes?
“Not per se, however, the model I provide an extra 12 to 24 people on a quiet night of the week – when nothing else is going on – in exchange for free use of the space. But when those 12 people are all buying Prosecco and snacks, it must add up.
“I deliberately send my people to the bar three times in each two-and-a-half-hour session: before, break and after (aka drying time).”
How do you see the business expanding? New types of class?
“Personally I wish to gain a few more regular venues but, as a one-man band, I am limited here by time and distance.
“However, I can see a future where I have a few tutors attached to the ArtVine ‘brand’ taking the business further.
“A major thought I have now is to ‘band’ my sessions, some for complete beginners and a more advanced grouping. I already have some developed art techniques put in each class for the more advanced, bearing in mind that my regulars have been with me a year and are getting better at this!”
What happens to the art that class attendees create?
“Everyone goes home with their masterpiece in their hands.”