STEELE CREEK -- A new "stress therapy" shop in Steele Creek provides more than a few hours of distraction by offering the tools for giving yourself some down time and results to reflect on later.
"It is a way to enjoy some time with friends, relieve some stress or just spend time getting lost in your painting," said Karen Preston of Steele Creek and owner of Cajun Canvas on South Tryon Street. "Everyone goes home with a feeling of accomplishment as they carry their own painted canvas out of the studio."
When Preston's sister suggested she open an art studio in Charlotte, her creative juices started flowing. Having always dabbled in art from painting to pottery, Preston opened the doors of Cajun Canvas in the fall to help others enjoy her passion.
"You don't have to be an artist, but you can release your inner Picasso so everyone takes home a painting at the end of the evening," she said. "My husband came up with the tagline for the studio 'A Painting Bayou' as a play on words."
Preston provides the paint, canvas, brushes and the studio for customers to create a painting as she gives step-by-step instructions during evening and Saturday afternoon sessions. Although everyone paints the same picture, customers are free to add personal touches.
"Once [we] started, everyone was working together but focused on creating their own personal masterpiece. The amazing thing, everyone did," said Wade Brown. "It was a wonderful experience."
The informal art studio, which invites individuals and groups to bring a beverage of choice and a snack while painting, is all about community from partnering with local restaurants like nearby A Taste of Havana in January for a Cuban-themed night to helping groups and businesses. Cajun Canvas also gives back to the community through events such as "Painting for food," where participants brought donations for a local food bank.
"We can do fundraising and team building sessions also," Preston said.
Frances Manning of Blue Cross/Blue Shield in Charlotte recently decided to take employees to Cajun Canvas for a team-building exercise.
"I wanted an activity that was fun, relieved employee stress and strengthened our team bond," Manning said. "It was not until the day of the event that the team realized they were going to actually paint a picture.
"Immediately, this was somewhat intimidating since nobody classified themselves as an artist," she said. "However, Karen did a wonderful job leading the class and reassured everyone they would have a masterpiece. She also was very helpful and accommodating in the planning. The event was a huge success for my team."
Participant Becky Huffman agreed.
"This was a great activity, and Karen is a fantastic teacher," she said. "Not only do you discover that you actually can paint the picture, but it truly takes your mind away from anything else. What a fun way to relieve stress."
There also are special events, such as wine-tasting Wednesdays and holiday paintings each month.
"We will celebrate St. Patrick's Day on March 14 and be painting a Gaelic knot while enjoying Irish food and Celtic music," Preston said. "The price includes everything to create your own painting and the food, so bring your favorite beverage."
Preston also is planning a special event April 24 hosting shopping from unique local businesses in time for Mother's Day, and she is considering other specials such as Pizza Party, Girls Night Out, Mother's Day and Couples Night.
"I want the time to be enjoyable for those who are painting no matter why they decided to come," Preston said.
Want to go?
Cajun Canvas is located at 1116-B South Tryon St. in the York Ridge Shopping Center in Steele Creek. Sessions begin at 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and an afternoon session runs from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday. Class costs range from $25 to $45, and include all art supplies. Group discounts are available. For information, call 704-504-5224 or visit cajuncanvas.com.
Special events on the calendar:
• St. Patrick's Day Celebration, 7-10 p.m. March 14, painting a Gaelic knot. There will be Irish food and Celtic music. Bring your own beer, wine or non-alcoholic drink. Cost: $35 per person, or $25 per person for groups of 10 or more.
• Wine Tasting Spectacular, 7-10 p.m. March 18, painting Sorrento. Passion8 Bistro of Fort Mill will provide a sampling of food. Bring a bottle of wine to share with the other students for a wine tasting. At the end of the class, vote on your favorite wine. The winner will receive a certificate for a future class at Cajun Canvas. Cost: $25.
Visit cajuncanvas.com and click on "calendar" to see the different paintings scheduled each day.