- Erica Nkechi leads a paint party at her studios.
Edmond-based artist and business owner Erica Nkechi has hosted paint parties at Heart Studios, 1605 E. Second St., in Edmond to fund scholarship programs to provide art classes to children from low-income families.
Now Nkechi partners with another series of adult-themed paint parties to expand the reach of her mission to help kids while also helping adults tap into their creative side.
“Paint parties are such a great place for beginners to come if you want to get into painting,” Nkechi said. “It gives you motivation and inspiration to go home and continue painting, but they’re set up so that all levels can enjoy a good party; I even enjoy attending paint parties, and I’ve been painting for a decade.”
7-10 p.m. Saturday
Reasons: An Exclusive Lounge
1140 N. MacArthur Blvd.
Nkechi has hosted paint parties featuring pre-sketched works devoted to the Beatles and Beyoncé, among others, at her studios but is joined by International Art Lovers Group (IALG), which hosts paint parties at Reasons: An Exclusive Lounge, 1140 N. MacArthur Boulevard, allowing guests to have access to food and alcohol while they paint.
Friday, the art lovers group hosts a paint and plate with culinary art instructor Tina Best, allowing people to paint with food. Saturday, it hosts a Nipsey Hussle paint party honoring the slain entrepreneur, community activist and hip-hop artist. It also has paint parties scheduled for Cardi B, Barack and Michelle Obama and a monthly paint party dedicated to trap music.
“From here on out, working with them is going to be really good because we can continue to do paint parties on a larger scale and it keeps our studio focused on the kids,” Nkechi said.
Heart Studios offers group art classes and private art classes for children, including summer art camp July 8-12 and July 22-26. It also hosts Women of Color Art Showcase every two months, with the next one scheduled for August. While Nkechi’s primary focus is providing lessons for kids, she has noticed an impact on adults who have participated in paint parties.
“There have been people who have come to my paint parties and then later that next week, they’ll tag me to show me what they’ve painted and say that I inspired them,” she said. “It’s really fun, and I enjoy that. A lot of people have that creative side, but they don’t necessarily have that outlet or space to express themselves. It’s why paint parties are such a fun thing to do.”
Nkechi said there are different ways to organize paint parties. The artist can provide a pre-sketched canvas and refer specific colors, like paint by numbers, but she prefers the people participating to have more freedom.
“I like [the paint by numbers] concept and it might be something we do in the future, but I like the coloring sheet canvas because it allows people to express themselves a little bit more; they’re not tied to a specific color,” Nkechi said.
Nkechi’s artwork combines inspiration from her personal experience relating to family in the U.S. and Africa. Her personal website features work dedicated to her Nigerian heritage as well as U.S. figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin and Angela Davis.
“I’m half Nigerian and half white American. I have my family all over the world, and a lot of my work is inspired by growing up in America and being disconnected with my family in Africa and reconnecting with them,” she said. “My work can seem activist-centered, and it is in many ways, but in real life, I’m really not the type to speak out about different issues. I’m very passionate, and I feel like my art is my way of speaking out.”
- Nkechi’s work is inspired by her dual American and Nigerian heritage.
IALG organizer Ushindi Spears participated in community paint parties for two years when he lived in Maryland and decided to create IALG when he recently moved back to Oklahoma City.
Spears is among a group organizing a monthly water balloon fight at Will Rogers Gardens and a free kids party the last Sunday of every month.
“I used to do those when I lived in Oklahoma City,” Spears said. “I just want to provide a fun thing to do that isn’t normal. You don’t normally have someone throwing a big water balloon fight.”
The kids parties are meant to be a community-minded positive activity, and he sees the same atmosphere when organizing paint parties for adults.
“It’s a sense of bringing people together,” he said. “The energy is going to be so vibrant that it is going to be infectious. You’re going to leave out of there excited that you made the decision to come. You paint a masterpiece that looks like you’ve done it. You’ll be looking like you’ve been painting for years. It’s as user-friendly as possible. You get an experience with the artist; it is almost like getting a class without paying class prices.”
Supplies are provided in the price of the tickets, which are $35 and can be purchased the day of the event. Canvas sizes range from 14-by-17 inches to 16-by-20 inches. Artist CeCi Williams of Art Craft Love Creative Space designed the Nipsey Hussle sketch.
Spears, who grew up in South Central Los Angeles as it descended into neighborhoods dominated by gang violence in the 1980s, wanted to organize a paint party in honor of Nipsey Hussle — who was killed outside one of his community-focused businesses in March — to keep the memory of his positive work for the African American community alive.
“You can expect the sense of unity right out of the gate and the sense of love, being able to fellowship with people,” Spears said. “I believe in fellowship and unity above almost everything else. I believe in all races and cultures coming together. You’ve seen more people trying to do things that are contributing to the community, much more valiant efforts by people of color [since his death]. The rest of society has noticed it and wanted to contribute more because it’s helped people see things differently.”