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Queens News Painting with a Twist aims to bridge art and community (Queens Ledger) Posted: 07/11/2018 4:48 PM When Felecia and Kumar Singh decided to celebrate their anniversary by attending a paint and sip class, they didn’t know that the experience would forever change their life. With two children and the couple both working 40 to 60 hours per week, they always made the time for each other in order to keep the relationship fresh. This particular date night wasn’t different, except that it inspired Felecia to open her own paint and sip studio. While painting, she turned to Kumar and told him that she could see herself running a similar business. “At first, he thought I was joking but then he saw me getting really passionate about it and I was starting to look up things like how to start an LLC and he realized I was serious,” Felecia said. “After he saw that I wasn’t backing down, he fully fostered my dream. He was my number one cheerleader.” Together, they opened up Painting with a Twist at 97-14 Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills in June. They chose to become part of the Painting with a Twist franchise because it’s been rated as the top paint and sip company. They were also inspired by the co-founders of Painting with a Twist, two friends who were looking to help their community following Hurricane Katrina. “That really drew me because it was women empowerment and charity-oriented,” she said. “When I was looking to do this by myself, I wasn’t really getting any headway but when I saw this franchise that was already established and could do what they do for a small fee, I didn’t find a fault there. “Someone was going to hold my hand and walk me through this and I was really excited,” she added. The couple are residents of Ozone Park but decided to open up shop in Forest Hills because they generally spend their time in the neighborhood when looking for fun activities relatively close to their home. “We go to Austin Street, we go to Metropolitan Avenue, the movie theater is so great and then there are all the little restaurants and bars,” Felecia said. “We thought Forest Hills was really up-and-coming, really family-friendly and the community has been so supportive and fabulous.” Though they initially signed a lease in September, they didn’t open until June due to slowdowns by the Department of Buildings and they also needed to figure out the proper permits required. “We really wanted to have everything right from the get-go,” Felecia said. Felecia, a former assistant to the director for the New York International Auto Show, runs Painting with a Twist mostly on her own, but Kumar helps out after he returns home from his 20-year job as an auto technician in Manhattan. He helps her with tasks such as cleaning up, closing out, checking emails and locking up. “I don’t consider us very artsy people, but we do appreciate art, music and artists, who we are just in awe of,” she said. “We hired some fantastic people from local neighborhoods like Far Rockaway, Queens Village and Glendale.” The artists were all born and raised in the city and bring their unique skill sets to the studio. “They all bring their own personalities and when there’s a session they’ll go out and shine,” Kumar said. “They’re the entertainer and the artist,” Felecia added. “They’re very technically qualified but they don’t use art jargon.” She likened Painting with a Twist to speed dating but with art. What usually takes the artist about 30 minutes to complete ends up being about an hour-to-two-hours long with a novice learning to paint. While one artist is up on stage explaining what to do, another walks around and assists with the paintings. There are also TVs available so that people can closely see how the stage artist is painting. During the session, there’s a break where anything from games to raffles to a full-on dance party can ensue. “We have so much fun because when you work all day long sometimes you’re stressed,” Felicia said, adding, “when you come in here, we want to you to chill out and have a good night.” When customers arrive, everything is already set up and they don’t need to do any type of cleaning up, Kumar noted. Painting with a Twist also plays a game where people check into the studio on social media and the person with the most likes at the end of the night gets a prize. But Felecia found that although people do it, they’re less likely to be on the phone throughout the night. Instead, they’re having conversations with their spouse or companion, engaging with strangers and making new friends. Felecia and Kumar noticed that while there are a lot of women who attend sessions for a girls night out, a lot of their customer base are mixed due to date nights and other special themed events. In the future, they hope to have events such as karaoke night, LGBTQ night and disco night. “It’s the best thing because you go to restaurants now and everyone is on their phone,” Felecia said. “But here, everyone has something to do, something to talk about, something to compare, and then they get on stage and take their photo together.” In the afternoon, they’ve seen a higher presence of older residents and families while at night there are more adults looking for a fun night out. Recently, Brooklyn Nets player Jarrett Allen and his partner, Jordyn, stopped by to paint a couples-themed painting of two connecting anchors. Although the Forest Hills location is geared 90 percent towards adults and 10 percent towards children, there are programs that are family-friendly. On Saturday mornings, there are family-oriented sessions where parents and their kids paint together as a family. Kumar revealed that Painting with a Twist is also running kids camps. During the camp, kids work on five pieces centering around a theme followed by a snack and juice. They work on a self portrait little-by-little throughout the week which leads to a special art gallery where they can show off their work. At the end of the week, they’ll go home with six pieces and their parents can see their progression from day one to day five. Painting with a Twist is hoping to run three camps, between the second week of July and early August, featuring themes such as Vincent van Gogh, underwater sea creatures as well as the magical and mystical with wizards, wands and owls. Felecia and Kumar like to support other nearby local businesses such as Plaster Party Place, Oliloli Arts and Crafts Studio and Learning Lab. “It’s becoming a very artsy type of town and I think people are really appreciating that,” Felecia said. “We don’t want to take any business away from them but at the same time, we’d like to add something to the community,” Kumar further stated. The Painting with a Twist Forest Hills location hosts at least one Painting with a Purpose event per month. These events give back to the community. For example, they recently held an event that contributed to the fight against breast cancer. On July 28, they’ll be holding a class that promotes autism awareness for a school in Richmond Hill. They’ve also hosted teachers and nurses appreciation weeks. And, for pet lovers, there’s a session where you can paint your pets. “The painting is what brings you in, but it’s not just about painting, it’s about mingling with everyone else and making new friends and enjoying a beer or some wine,” Kumar said. “With the games and dancing, it’s just a whole package.”

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