Carla Garrison-Mattos keeps a map, now, in her home where she marks off all the places she has shipped one of her painting kits. The other day was a big one for the Charlotte artist: She sent sketched canvas, paints and brushes to Saudi Arabia.
She has the coronavirus to thank for that.
“This is something I don't think I ever would have thought of, really, if this hadn't happened,” Garrison-Mattos said. “There was a time where I was like, ‘Oh, how can I reach more people?’ And ‘How can I branch out?’ And this just never crossed my mind.
First, the pandemic canceled a handful of her popular twice-weekly class, “Pets, Paints and Pints,” where students gather in local breweries to add paint to canvases where Garrison-Mattos had drawn their pets in a paint-by-number style.
The classes typically sell out months in advance, but when people were unable to gather in groups because of the virus and then the stay-at-home order, Garrison-Mattos quickly pivoted to technology to help her through.
The resulting Zoom classes have taken her classes in a new direction and helped her reach an entirely new audience. She simply ships pre-sketched canvases, paints and brushes to registrants, and they connect online.
They miss out on the shared beverages, but Garrison-Mattos encourages everyone to grab a glass of whatever is their favorite, aim their phone or computer at their canvas so she can see what they’re doing, and keep themselves unmuted so conversation can flow freely.
“What's really cool now is that I've got families who are spread across the country, who are now able to take the same class together,” she said. “So you know, if you live in Florida, and your mom lives in Nebraska, and then someone else lives here, you can all be taking that class at the same time.”
And the classes are just as popular as ever. At a time when so many are looking for ways to escape the news, they are finding a creative outlet in colorful painted versions of their beloved pets. Garrison-Mattos has online classes scheduled through June 11, and anticipates keeping a couple virtual classes per month in her schedule even after social distancing rules are relaxed.
“I do appreciate that this happened, in a sense, because it compelled me to do something I never would have considered doing,” Garrison-Mattos said.
Over at Wine & Design on East Boulevard, studio owner Jeanette Weisner made a similar pivot, where students can pick up take-home paint kits at her studio. At first, it was just individuals picking up the kits and painting on their own. A couple weeks ago, Weisner began offering live virtual classes. Now they will have on-demand recorded instruction as well.
While one of the big draws of her studio in the past was allowing friends to gather in the same room, Weisner is now finding that people are simply seeking a way to be creative.
“They always tell me how grateful there are that we're doing this,” she said. “It gives them something to do. And we know that art is good for the mind. If you've ever attended a painting class if you've ever painted, the immediate effect is how relaxing it is. And you know it kind of allows you to just relax and have a good time.”
There’s one other benefit: Anyone who takes a virtual painting class right now will have a lasting memento.
“I think these paintings in one way or another really mean something a little bit more than before when they came to the studio and painted,” she said. “These can all be marked with, ‘We did this during coronavirus.’”
This story originally appeared in WFAE's weekly arts and entertainment newsletter, Tapestry. Subscribe here.
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