Painting parties are all the rage, and Uptown Art, on Executive Drive in Sussex, offers something for everyone: public and private party classes with a social theme, classes for would-be artists eager to learn and classes that can be presented at almost any location. Participants complete canvas paintings, pottery pieces or wine bottles and glassware.

Uptown Art, part of a nationwide chain, is independently owned by artist Stacie Estrada. The Sussex native started as an instructor and purchased the business three years ago.

"Our painting sessions are a great combination of social and academic," says Estrada. "Many people come here to relax and art takes you to that place.

"There are daily public sessions that are like happy hours; we serve beer, wine and mixed drinks. We have live music and provide recipe cards with painting instructions. People work at their own pace and no one needs to be an artist to participate; people can use the creative side of their brains for a day."

Most of the classes are instructor-based and Uptown Art's website's calendar of events provides a description of each session. Estrada adds that Modern Impressionist-style painting is the most popular class. Russian artist Leonid Afremov serves as an instructor for many of these programs. Each project is finished in one session and may be taken home that day. Custom-framing is also offered and finished artwork is on sale beginning at $30.

People are able to bring in snacks, and Uptown Art has a list of caterers for private parties. Young artists, ages 5 and up, are invited to special Kids' Happy hours and Estrada runs a Kids' Day Camp and has birthday parties geared to kids and teens.

Uptown Art also travels to churches, schools and even golf courses. "We work with a number of companies that want a team-building activity for their employees," she says.

Reservations are required for each class. Visit uptownart.com for complete painting class details.

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