Pinot’s Palette: where color and community intersect

The beginning of the Winter Term has arrived in full swing, and there is never a dull moment; many of us are already working on presentations and papers for our classes or representing the university in winter sports or organizational activities. That said, too large of a dose of academics or cocurriculars can produce a sense of ennui—I am guilty as charged, too. Luckily for us, Downtown Appleton is home to an ever-growing number of things to do to restore the balance in one’s life. For hardworking students, that may mean taking a break from our studies in favor of a more relaxing environment. Personally, I cannot think of a better place to do that than visiting Pinot’s Palette (also sometimes known as simply ‘Pinot’s’).   

There are around 80 individually owned and operated Pinot’s Palette locations nationwide, but its story in Appleton began when the original owners moved to Appleton from Huston, Texas, where painting studios were prevalent. The two would attend classes and other events held by the studios frequently during their time before they were married and decided they wanted to bring a taste of home to the artsy Downtown area. Finally, on October 1st, 2013, Appleton’s own Pinot’s Palette opened for business.  

Bri Getchius, the business manager of the Appleton location, received me in the quiet studio last week, complete with canvases on the walls and paint splatters on the tables, proof of the creative genius that is encouraged at the shop. One of the first attributes of Pinot’s that she reiterated many times throughout the interview was that it is a place where visitors of all art talent levels can enjoy a creative outlet, and more broadly, just have fun. Many guests, Getchius finds, do not usually partake in painting outside of the studio, so she has made it her goal—and that of the studio—to make every person feel comfortable in their individual skill levels and enjoy the fun that art can offer.  

Aside from that, Pinot’s Palette is a space for relaxation through an activity to both stimulate and calm the mind. Getchius herself is a believer in the science behind creativity, especially of how it can de-stress the brain (sound familiar?).  

How exactly does Pinot’s Palette foster its mission in its visitors? There are a multitude of ways, but ‘paint parties’, instructor-led painting classes of a featured work (some of which are created in-house), are the “bread and butter” of the studio’s offerings. While these parties are led by instructors (many of whom have a degree in art, and all who have a passion for it), the atmosphere is much more laid-back than what the word ’class’ can connotate; guests are encouraged to express creative freedom in the art they create. That could mean using different colors than what is being taught, or even adding details of one’s own. Whatever the case, freedom of expression is much more than welcomed at these sessions—it is embraced.  

For those looking for a completely hands-off creative experience, on every other Saturday morning and every Monday from noon to eight, Pinot’s Palette hosts an open studio. There, visitors can enjoy “free paint” hours, as Getchius described them, guided by nothing but their own imaginations to express themselves to the fullest.  

At the end of the sessions, each painting is sent home with their creators so everyone can take a little splash of color with them. 

Additionally, Pinot’s hosts a handful of special events year-round, some of which even go beyond the canvas. This summer, for example, an artist from India who recently moved to the area taught henna tattoo workshops at the studio.  

If there are two defining parts of Downtown Appleton, in my local opinion, it is the art and the alcohol. Pinot’s Palette, displaying both even in just the studio’s name, is home to both of the local specialties; in addition to painting, 21+ guests are welcome to relax in the in-house bar, packed with wine and other drinks (remember to always drink responsibly).  

The most unique part of the Pinot’s experience, Getchius believes, is not the colorful canvases or the staff members’ merit; it is the ability for anybody, no matter how talented or not they believe themselves to be, to become an artist for two hours in a supportive, non-demanding environment. Unlike some art studios, visitors are not required to bring their own supplies or participate in setup or cleanup. Instead of focusing on what guests have to bring to the studio, their focus lies in what they can to bring to the studio with their own boundless imaginations.  

Approaching the fourth week of the term already, heightening stress towards midterm exams and projects is bound to bloom in many of us. Do not hesitate to take the edge off of it; treat yourself to a Pinot’s Palette trip just west of campus, where self-expression and every color of the rainbow (plus some) awaits you.