In the past five years, paint nights, where guests can create masterpieces in simplified steps led by an instructor while sipping on a glass of wine, have become a popular trend in the greater Boston area. While the idea has kicked off and spread to communities throughout the Commonwealth, few know that it was a mother and daughter duo that introduced the concept to the region. After visiting a paint bar in Atlanta, the pair had a vision for a similar concept back home in Boston. Upon returning home, Jackie Schon and her mother Jill Kerner Schon were met with skepticism when they shared the concept with their family and friends. “Why would anyone want to copy someone else’s work?” their loved ones would ask, having grown up with an artistic background. It just so happens that Jackie’s grandmother is Nancy Schön, creator of the infamous Make Way for Ducklings sculpture in the Boston’s Public Garden.
“When we started nobody understood this concept,” Jill explained, “We were fortunate enough to see it in action and see how much people loved it. When we came back and spoke to people about it, they wondered why anyone would want to copy someone else’s work.” Despite the skepticism, the Schon ladies proceeded to open The Paint Bar in Newton. Since then, they’ve been able to expand to The Paint Bar on Newbury, right in the heart of Boston, where locals come to relax and tourists come to make their own unique souvenirs. Many Bostonians bring out of town visitors with them to get a true Boston experience. “We have had more than 50,000 customers in 5 years. People look at their paintings and say, I can’t believe I did that, and they are just so happy. It just makes us feel great about what we’re doing,” Jill said. Even to their surprise, some people who have attended paint nights went on to study art in more formal classes, unearthing a new passion.
As the business continued to grow, the pair hired more staff and instructors to assist them during paint nights, which are held every evening and weekend afternoons on Newbury Street, where Boston landscapes are a favorite. As a result, their collection of sample paintings grew beyond their means. Jackie initially wanted to sell the extra paintings, but credits her mom for the idea of donating them. “We donate them to a number of places. In particular we have a program with Mass General. We’ve given them more than 500 paintings for their cancer center. They give them to their patients, and also hang them on the walls there,” Jill said. The pair added they create so many instructor paintings, that they are always seeking new ideas on how to give back in charitable ways.
Being a mother and daughter business, it is no surprise that one of their most popular days of the year is Mother’s Day. Both locations will be open throughout Mother’s Day, where they have seen up to four generations in a single family participating in paintings. “We’re going to work together all day long, we’ve had five Mother’s Days [at The Paint Bar] already, so we know that this is a great activity for moms with little kids, and also moms with older mothers.” Jill explained. Jackie added, “We see a lot of generations on mother’s day. This is one of the few activities where you can have four generations of the same family doing the same activity.” The plan for Mother’s Day is a knock-off Monet, because people love the organic nature of impressionist style paintings. There is a little more forgiveness in the brushstrokes, since they know there will be a variation of ages joining the fun. They’ll also offer a double painting, where two people can come together and work on separate canvases to create a pair that can be placed together to make one when completed.
Jackie and Jill never expected to work together, but feel their contrasting skills have made for a great partnership. “She’s a lot more of the back end, I’m a lot more of the front end,” Jackie explained. Jackie prefers to work hands on with instructors and customers, while her mother manages the business side, and they consult one another accordingly. “My mom and I discuss everything,” Jackie said.
The mother and daughter team look forward to spending Mother’s Day together doing what they love and making memories for their guests. Mother’s Day is just one example of the many occasions celebrated in The Paint Bar. Between birthdays, dates, or just a night out on the town, there’s always a reason to visit The Paint Bar.