Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington - The Joint Base Lewis-McChord Arts and Craft Center hosts a monthly Wine and Canvas, creating a very laid-back and fun atmosphere, which allows amateur painters a creative release said Debbie DeSpain, lead recreation assistant of the Arts and Craft Center.
"It lets whatever is in your head out," said DeSpain. "You just free flow. Basically it's Zen. Whatever is stressing you just let it out through the artwork."
DeSpain, an instructor at the Arts and Crafts Center, is also a professional artist and holds a Master of Fine Arts from Ohio State University.
She said Wine and Canvas is more like a social event than a formal class. She is there to encourage and be a cheerleader.
"I love teaching," said DeSpain. "I absolutely love interacting with people. This is a dream job for me."
As the participants filed into the event April 28, they received either a glass of wine or the non-alcoholic beverage of their choice. As the room began to fill, people socialized, sipped wine and ate as they found a seat and canvas.
At the front of the room was a display of several paintings, which participants were encouraged to replicate.
DeSpain chose one for the participants who wanted to follow along with her - a simple painting of a tree with a yellow background.
"It's in my mood," said DeSpain enthusiastically. "The sun is out. It's gorgeous. I feel like doing something really cheerful and not super complicated."
Many participants used their phones to snap pictures of the paintings they wanted to recreate before taking their seats and donning their aprons.
"I do really believe that art can be therapeutic for people," said Lesley Hill, manager of the Art and Craft Center. "It can be very therapeutic to take a pen and paper and just draw or even doodle."
Hill, like DeSpain, has been into art since childhood. A native of England, she was hired at an arts and craft center there, straight out of high school as part of a youth program. She has been with the JBLM art center since 2000.
She, along with DeSpain and another assistant walked the room giving encouragement and advice to the 40 people in attendance throughout the night. Unlike a typical classroom setting, participants were encouraged to walk around and view each other's work or grab more food and wine during the two-and-a-half-hour session.
Some participants received prizes, handed out raffle style during the event. Hill said the event is usually held with wine, but she is open to accommodating requests for other types of adult beverages. Priced at $30, Hill said the event is just below what others in the area charge.
"We are here to serve our community," said Hill. "We are not here to profit. As long as we are breaking even we are good. Anything we can do to provide the service to the community, that's what we are here for."
Some people attended alone, others with a spouse or a group, which was the case for Callie Rogan, a first time attendee at the painting event who was accompanied by two friends for a "ladies hangout night".
"I'm terrible with art," laughed Rogan. "I'm not really into it, but this was fun. I liked having an activity to do, hanging out with friends, sharing it together and giving each other ideas and tips."
Rogan said she hopes to attend another Wine and Canvas and felt it gave her a bit of a mental escape. She was also quite pleased with her finished product.
"I surprised myself," giggled Rogan. "I don't want to throw it away, that's good"
For more information on the Arts and Craft Center or to registration for a Wine and Canvas call the Art and Craft Center at 253-982-6726 or 6718.