by Kennedy McCoy
A painting sets a mood. It projects into the onlooker’s mind through the lens of personal interpretation. Some may feel inspired, while others could be discouraged. A handful could be confused or contemplative. The possibilities are endless for art—just as they are for life. Kimberly S. Carson is an African-American business owner of Painting with a Twist in Monroeville, PA. She worked in communications for twenty-three years, and as retirement approached she bought a Painting with a Twist branch. The business caught Carson’s attention after hearing about it through a friend: “I wanted to be a part of a therapeutic, enjoyable outlet. I realize nothing can predict the future but faith in your higher power can give you strength, and I am grateful for the opportunity to help this franchise grow and flourish.”
Her business is filled with paintings on the walls; it’s a colorful and cozy environment with a genuine artistic flair. The vibrancy of the atmosphere brings a smile to many faces, and it is a fun and energetic way to release stress. Customers can bring their own water, soda, wine or any other beverage of their choosing. Once they sit down, the artist in the front of the room guides them through painting a picture. While the first coat dries, music plays while the customers participate in games such as musical chairs. There is also dancing in the middle of the floor. Ms. Carson wants her customers to feel good on the inside while their masterpieces are created.
“Anything you face creatively is good for your soul,” she says. But to bring such a fun night to life is not a solo job: “I’ve been blessed with the staff, and they’re more than willing to help. I owe most of my success to the staff, family and God. We like to party, have a good time, and they try their hardest to be the best they can be.” The first person Ms. Carson hired, CiCi, was there from the beginning. She is a talented artist who is highly requested, possibly more so than anyone else in the franchise’s history. Currently, the staff is all women, and they are like sisters in and outside of work.
Ms. Carson’s sense of kinship plays a huge role in work ethic and her personal life. She is devoted to her family and says they’re extremely supportive. It is easy for her to see strangers as friends, and greets everyone with a huge smile. Her boisterous and joyful aura bleeds into the message of Painting with a Twist.
The franchise was founded by Cathy Deano and Renee Muloney, who lived in New Orleans. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, they wanted to do all they could to exude a positive mindset, and were heavily involved in helping others and lifting spirits. They started going to a friend’s garage to paint and drink wine. It was something that brought peace of mind in a time of chaos and uncertainty. Soon the idea transformed into a franchise. It is a requirement for all branches of Painting with a Twist to have an active role in the community, which is something that comes naturally to Ms. Carson. “It’s a good way to be a philanthropist. And it’s an education on what people are going through,” says Carson. Nonprofits are the central focus, and events to raise money are held monthly. Beneficiaries from past events include Autism Speaks and the American Cancer Society.
Ms. Carson has always had a love for art; she once worked as a photographer in the city for friends, family, festivities and last minute weddings: ”It was intriguing and sparked an interest. I loved seeing art repetitively.” Her perspective on life is heavily rooted in creativity. Oscar Wilde once said, “All art is useless,” because it has no purpose other than to be observed. Art can have unexpected benefits, however. Our hectic lives take away from our peace of mind, and our duty to our job, financial situation, and home life can cause a lot of emotional distress. Ms. Carson understands this, and hopes to relax her customers through this therapeutic experience. “If you come to Painting with a Twist, it should be a memorable experience. We gotta give ‘em all we got every night.” Ms. Carson and her staff look for every way possible to create lasting memories. “We want to create experiences like that. It’s what we strive for.” Her optimism and undying spirit keep her business thriving. I asked Ms. Carson what it takes to own a business; she said, “It takes a great staff, customer service, and the love of people.”
When the artist sits down to paint, the result may not be as expected; there may be several twists and turns in the painting. Wilde may have a point about art’s uselessness, especially in a rigid and demanding society. But for the goodness of humanity, all art is useful. It is a beautiful reminder of emotion such as kindness and empathy. Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night, with its yellow stars and moon against the blue backdrop, remind me of Ms. Carson—she is a light within the darkness of an uncertain canvas. Ms. Carson asserts that “We can do more than we think, more than we realize.” It is important to never lose a positive outlook, despite the difficult times in life. “Pray hard. Laugh, don’t take everything too serious, just try to enjoy the moment. Try to stay in the moment and be happy as possible.” The message she sends to all is encouragement, love, and peace to the soul: “Try to enjoy each day for whatever it is, and know tomorrow will be a better day. Sometimes you have bad days, but overall life is good.”
Book Your Next Party at Painting with a Twist!
Located at 2525 Monroeville Blvd, Monroeville, PA 15146. (412-824-7928)
This article was first published in Soul Pitt Quarterly Print Magazine (Spring 2017). Copyright Soul Pitt Media. All Rights Reserved.