A group of coworkers huddled around a table at the front of CREATE art bar in downtown Missoula, navigating strings around nails on a giant wooden board. Laughter filled the air as the party sipped craft cocktails while creating their work of string art together.

The activity of crafting or creating art while drinking in a social setting seems to be a popular choice for Missoulians, so much so that the new bar opened this year specifically to offer it.

“I think being creative and making things is good for people,” said Paisley Taylor, who opened CREATE art bar this past fall with her husband, Chase, in the new Merc building.

Business owners around Missoula see a demand for accessible arts and are offering different avenues to meet it.

Last year, Western Cider started a monthly event called “Drink & Draw,” where patrons can explore their creative side while enjoying a cider.

And at Painting with a Twist off Brooks Street, you can follow an instructor and create your own masterpiece with a bottle of wine.

The same theme is present throughout: Making the arts accessible and enjoyable for all.

CREATE art bar

“We wanted to have an art studio, a space that was appealing to everybody and wasn’t intimidating for people that think they’re not creative or not artistic,” Paisley said.

The CREATE art bar is a do-it-yourself arts and crafts workshop with a full menu of craft cocktails, beer and wine. When you sit down, you get a drink menu, but you also get a project menu.

“We give you all the materials you need, your tools and your step-by-step instructions,” Paisley said. “And then you sit back and kind of go at your own pace.”

The bar’s “art tenders” stop by regularly for drink orders, but also to be of help with any project questions, Chase said, adding that they cater to people who have never done a craft or art project before.

“We set you up for success. We want people to leave with something they’re proud of,” he said. “People will say, ‘I’m not an artist, but look what I made.’”

Their prices are based off of the materials used and the end product. Leather wallets and passport holders run $38, whereas the smaller keychains will cost you $7.

“There’s a whole range so that we can appeal to a lot of different people,” Paisley said, adding that they have projects fit for kids and families as well.

The drink menu follows the creative theme of the business, with artfully designed craft cocktails and local beer.

The duo said business has been steady at the bar so far and think their concept is something Missoulians will continue to embrace.

“I think a lot of it is just the social aspect of being out of your house and not doing it on your own,” Paisley said. “We’ve had a really great response from the local community.”

CREATE art bar is open Tuesday-Friday from 3 to 10 p.m., Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Reservations are recommended for larger groups and can be made at createartbar.com/.

Western Cider Drink & Draw

Across town on a recent Wednesday, Western Cider was packed full of people drinking cider and drawing Krampus, a mythical holiday character.

Cidery co-owner Matt LaRubbio said his desire for a community art night at the cidery was sparked after seeing the same type of thing elsewhere.

“I had seen other examples of something like this in other cities and thought it would be great to try out here,” LaRubbio said. Their monthly Drink & Draw, a partnership with the Zootown Arts Community Center, started in March 2018 and has been growing ever since.

Every third Wednesday of the month, the cidery and the ZACC invite the community to draw for free. The subject matter changes each month and has included everything from still life objects to prints to live models.

Most months, the ZACC partners with a local nonprofit that provides the subjects to be drawn. For example, they did a "Drink & Draw Bugs," and the Missoula Insectarium and Butterfly House provided insects as subjects.

Mikyla Veis, who organizes and runs the Drink & Draw at Western Cider, said they get anywhere from 50 to 150 people at the monthly events, adding that accessibility is a big part of why she thinks it’s so popular.

“It’s something that’s free and anyone can come enjoy,” said Veis, who is the marketing, events, and community outreach coordinator for the ZACC. “It’s accessible, it’s family-friendly, it’s a free place to be that’s not your home or work, it’s community-oriented and people love cider.”

Veis plans and organizes Drink & Draw, bringing all the supplies and setting up the cidery for the event. She’s also present to get people started and answer questions.

“We make the whole tap room accessible to anyone who wants to draw,” she said.

Chelsea Leven, who was about halfway through her Krampus sketch, said she loves the Drink & Draw event because it’s convenient and gets her to do something she normally wouldn’t if she was at home alone.

“The ZACC does a great job of providing supplies and makes it super accessible, and it’s no pressure,” she said, adding that she likes making art in a more casual atmosphere.

“It’s in a social setting and I don’t think art should be so serious,” Leven said. “So I like places to express my creativity where people aren’t taking themselves overly seriously.”

Western Cider's next iteration, "Drink & Draw Wassail," is set for Jan. 15 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The ZACC is partnering with the Montana Natural History Center, which will provide bird and owl skeletons, feathers, apples and other natural elements to draw. Check Western Cider’s website at zootownarts.org/ for details about upcoming Drink & Draw events.

Painting with a Twist

Last Saturday at Painting with a Twist, a group of ladies roared with laughter over whose artwork was going to turn out the best. The sound of a champagne bottle popping signaled to instructor and owner Tyra McDonald that it was time for class to begin.

Painting with a Twist has been offering bring-your-own-beverage, instructor-led art classes since it opened in 2015.

McDonald said the studio has been successful because it offers a place for people with no experience to come and create something beautiful. Like the other businesses in town, the studio also provides supplies and step-by-step instruction for all skill levels.

“A lot of people come in here and they’re like, ‘When I was in high school, I failed art,’ or, ‘I can’t even draw a stick person.’ And I’m like, ‘Don’t worry, you’re going to be able to do this,” she said.

The room is set up like a classroom and each person has their own work space. The paint colors and brushes needed are already set up for you, along with the canvas you’ll be working on. An instructor at the front of the room on a small stage then takes you step-by-step through each brush stroke.

McDonald agreed that accessibility is a big part of what they offer at Painting with a Twist, adding that their classes end up being less expensive than trying to buy supplies and paint at home.

“It’s cheaper to come to a class and have all your supplies provided and then also not have to clean up after yourself and store anything, because the chances of your getting it out and doing it again from a YouTube tutorial or whatever is very slim.”

Patrons are encouraged to bring the beverage of their choice, be it beer, wine or liquor, and McDonaldsaid the drinks help with the whole process.

“A lot of people come in and they’re so nervous,” she said. “People do really well after their first glass of wine. Their paintings turn out amazing, and it’s because they kind of cut loose and let go.”

Painting with a Twist offers classes throughout the week and various times. The schedule, which includes the art piece that will be painted, is available at paintingwithatwist.com/studio/missoula/.