RSVPaint

There’s a recreational hot spot in downtown Joplin with a curious name: RSVPaint.

 

What do the letters stand for?

 

R = Relax. Ahh, sounds great.

 

S = Sip. Count me in!

 

V = Visit. Actually spend time in person with my friends rather than texting them? Sounds awesome!

 

P = Paint. Um, painting?

 

I do not have one artistic bone in my body (ask my kids about my attempts at drawing stick figures and I guarantee you’ll elicit some hearty laughs).

 

But paint-and-sip galleries are popular now among people, both with and without creative talent. They are filling a new recreational niche. Rather than meeting at a noisy bar, people are looking for alternative places to socialize with their friends, and RSVPaint is one of these places.

 

And, you know what? I found out that you truly you don’t have to possess any artistic skills in order to have a good time there.

 

Here’s how things work at RSVPaint?

 

First, you browse through RSVPaint’s online calendar to see which piece of artwork appeals to you. Make sure you select the Joplin location (there’s an RSVPaint in Springfield, too).

 

rsvp-themes

Themes change according to the season, so the choices are always fresh. The photo above shows some examples.

 

Once you find the piece that you want to paint, you can immediately reserve your space for the session online. While you don’t have to do this, I’d recommend it because the sessions fill up fast (remember, these places are popular now!).

 

On the night of your lesson, you can bring a beverage of your choice (alcoholic or not, it’s all good) or purchase one at the bar in the studio, then find a spot in front of one of the blank canvases at the tables.

 

After a few minutes of relaxing and visiting with your friends, the lesson begins. The instructor breaks everything down for you, leading you through the process one small step at a time.

 

rsvp-people-painting

Usually, all the students in class work on the same image for the night. However, I went to RSVPaint on one of the monthly Paint-Your-Pet nights, so while the process was the same for everyone, we all were painting different images.

 

Sounds intimidating to paint a portrait of your pet, right? Well, RSVPaint made it so simple.

 

First of all, everyone who registered for the session was asked to email personal pet photos to the studio. Here’s the photo of our golden retriever Micky that I sent:

 

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And here’s what my canvas looked like when I arrived at RSVPaint:

 

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Those artistic angels at RSVPaint had taken our pet images and sketched their outlines on the canvases. I was so relieved to see these lines because I certainly needed their guidance!

 

Coleman, our instructor, immediately put us at ease by explaining that the acrylic paint we were using was very forgiving, and that we could easily paint over our mistakes. (He was right – I successfully painted over several spots throughout the night.)

 

He began the lesson by showing us how to paint the background for our pet image, which consisted of green grass and blue sky. He said if you didn’t want that to be your background, you could do something else, but following Coleman’s technique felt like the safe thing to do for those of us with low artistic confidence.

 

Then we moved on to outlining the image. I started with the darkest color first.

 

rsvp-in-process

Coleman’s instruction was so relaxed and encouraging, as was the atmosphere among the students in the studio. There was no judgement.

 

As the lesson progressed, I gained more confidence.

 

And while my finished painting is nowhere near museum quality, I feel satisfied by the fact that my kids didn’t laugh when they saw it.

 

rsvp-micky

I enjoyed this girls’ night out experience at RSVPaint because I was able to visit with my friends while also learning something new. (To see their awesome pet paintings, scroll down to the end of this post.)

 

My next task is to convince my husband to come with me to RSVPaint for a date night. On date night, each couple paints an image that extends over two canvases rather than each person painting the same thing. That way, there’s no competing with your beloved about whose painting is better. Brilliant!

 

rsvp-date-night

Date night!

 

By the way, RSVPaint opens its studio to younger painters, too. Painters of all ages are welcome during designated times (Saturday Family Paint and Walk-In Wednesdays), and children (13 and under) can also have their birthday parties there.

 

But it was grown-ups only on the night I went. And while I enjoyed relaxing, sipping and visiting with my friends, it was actually the painting part of the RSVPaint experience – the part that I’d originally dreaded – that made me forget my worries.

 

Because for a few hours that night, so much of my attention was focused on learning a new skill that my mind had no room for other thoughts, and my stress melted away.

 

Now that’s a great escape.

 

Here are the other pet paintings from our girls’ night out (courtesy of RSVPaint’s Facebook page):

 

rsvp-jackie-erin

Jackie and Erin (can you tell that they’re sisters?)

 

rsvp-carrie-donna

Carrie and Donna

 

rsvp-chris-julie

Me and Julie

 

RSVPaint is located at 223 Third Street. Click here to visit its website.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Paint a Picture

Discovering art and culture in Missouri

by Flash Parker

 

I came to Joplin expecting an outdoor playground on the plains—what I found was an arts and culture oasis. Joplin is home to an active live theatre scene, and serves as a community arts destination of the highest order. As a regional creative hub Joplin is both inspiring and exciting—who knew? For me, my visit was one surprise after another.

 

Change of plans

The open road brought me to Joplin—both figuratively and literally. I came to Missouri to experience historic Route 66 and to kick start a trip along The Mother Road. But almost immediately upon arrival, my plans changed. I popped into the Red Onion Café to refuel, and overheard a pair of visitors discussing Joplin’s art scene. Interest piqued, I finished my delicious bleu moo sandwich (an artistic achievement in its own right), and headed off to visit Joplin City Hall, home to several of the city’s beloved murals.

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Route 66, Joplin, Missouri, completed in 2010 by artist Anthony Benton Gude, captures what is essentially the spirit of an entire era in one bold masterpiece. The mural is nostalgic and whimsical at once, and an incredible counterpoint to Joplin at the Turn of the Century, 1896–1906, the remarkable visual fable crafted by Thomas Hart Benton, Gude’s grandfather. These pieces are but two of Joplin’s more than 25 murals (12 of which are in the downtown core), each serving as a colorful ode to time, place and a sense of community.

 

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Public displays of reflection

Buoyed by this pretty town’s sense of artistry, I continued searching for masterworks—and found them in quite a few varied forms. At 8th and Main I found artist Garin Baker’s remarkable “Celebrating the Performing Arts,” an ode to Joplin’s arts scene, and a tip of the hat to how that scene has changed over the years. From ballerinas to early 20thCentury street panoramas to a majestic turn-of-the-century theatre, Baker’s work is a celebration of the artists’ world.

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At the northwest corner of 15th and Main Streets I found muralist Dave Loewenstein’s Butterfly Effect, an uplifting story of the notorious tornado that ravaged Joplin in 2011. Public art projects like this were a coping mechanism and healing tool for the people of the city, instituted as a way to bring local communities closer together to create something beautiful out of random chaos.

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I stopped next at the beautiful George A. Spiva Center for the Arts (don’t miss the mesmerizing Geometrically-Inspired Mural #1 adorning the façade at the corner of 3rdStreet and Wall Avenue), where an exhibit showcasing entries in the annual PhotoSpiva photography competition caught my eye. Founded in 1977, PhotoSpiva is the longest-running photography event of its kind in the country, and a showcase for truly sensational regional and national photographers. I also caught an exhibition called Uncommon Threads: A Dozen Shades of Gray, where quilted panels tell the story of aging. I made a mental note to challenge my grandmother to quilt me something creative next Christmas.

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In nearby Schifferdecker Park, I found the Joplin Museum Complex, where I shook hands with dino bots on the front lawn, and wrapped my visit by exploring the Everett J. Ritchie Tri-State Mineral Museum, the crown jewel of the museum complex. The Mineral Museum includes a world-class collection of zinc and lead ore, as well as other spectacular mineral specimens mined from the Tri-State District, as well as illustrations and exhibits showcasing geochemical and mining techniques dating from the 1870s.

 

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In the neighborhood

Inspired by Joplin’s dynamism, I wandered down Sergeant Avenue, into the Murphysburg Historic District, where 19th– and 20th-century architectural treasures have been lovingly restored. Stunning examples of Queen Anne, Dutch Colonial, Prairie Style and Colonial-Revival homes stand proud along the tree-lined boulevards, while wrought-iron fences, spiraling staircases, grandiose grotesques and marble water features call to mind a time when horses clopped over cobbled streets, families gathered to perform Sunday afternoon vignettes and the home was the center of the universe. So caught up in my trip into the past, I pondered if any of the home owners would allow me to book a ticket for the evening’s Heartland Opera Theatre performance via the electric telegraph.

 

HOT stuff

I heard of Heartland Opera—or HOT, as it is colloquially known—at the Spiva Center for the Arts, and decided to take a flyer for a night at the theatre. Coincidentally, “HOT Scandals” was on the docket, a cabaret-style show that’s naughty in all the right ways. Heartland’s productions are earnest, honest and above all else, local—it is truly thrilling to watch skilled talent take on the complex works of masters like Gilbert and Sullivan, Lucy Simon and Stephen Sondheim. I came away amused and impressed.

Another noted theatre in Joplin is the Joplin Little Theatre. Housed in a cozy stone citadel it is an artistic treasure in its own right. Built in 1939, the Little Theatre is the oldest continuously operating theatre west of the Mississippi. I saw more of Joplin’s artistic side in a few hours than I could have possibly imagined, and by day’s end I had scribbled a list of at least a dozen other attractions in my notebook, confident that Joplin was no longer simply part of the journey, but a destination in and of itself.

 

 


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Driven by art

 

The next morning, before setting back out onto the open road, I visited the Route 66 Mural Park, and remembered why I had been drawn to Joplin in the first place. The collaborative mural is actually two pieces of art—an upper piece commemorating Joplin’s place on this most historic of thoroughfares, and a lower piece composed of a US map and flashy ’64 Corvette. Just one more artful reminder of why I’ll someday soon be cruisin’ back to Joplin.

 

Discover the best of Joplin’s arts and culture.

Christmas Bird Count

This morning, I was standing at my kitchen counter whisking an egg for breakfast when, suddenly, I felt my skin prickle.

 

I was being watched.

 

I turned toward the kitchen window and saw two beady eyes fixated on my every move; they belonged to a sweet female finch that was perched atop our bird feeder.

 

I halted my breakfast preparations (how could I cook an egg while a bird watched me, for heaven’s sake?) and cautiously approached the window, coming eye-to-eye with the bird.

 

Even then, the finch didn’t flinch.

 

christmas bird count chloe 2

I watched her for a good half hour, awed by her serenity and mystified her uncanny interest in watching me.

 

So, why me? Was she trying to prevent me from consuming eggs this morning by doing some sort of cosmic intervention?

 

Was she one of the birds that I’d observed in their area habitats a few weeks ago when I’d participated in the Christmas Bird Count? Maybe she was, and now she’s turning the tables by having me experience what it feels like to be watched in my own habitat.

 

Guess what, little finch?

 

It feels magical.

 

At least, in this situation it did; I’d feel differently if there’d been human eyes staring at me though my kitchen window.

 

A Birding Newbie

Birdwatching is a new activity for me. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I bought a bird feeder for the backyard, thinking that my daughters might enjoy watching the birds. They do, but I’m actually the one who’s the most fascinated with our winged backyard friends.

 

christmas bird count female cardinal

Recognizing this fact has made me rethink my perception of birdwatchers. For most of my life, I’d considered birdwatching a hobby for retired people; I saw it as a hobby for people who possess both the time and patience to observe birds for hours on end – definitely not a hobby for busy families like ours with two working parents and school-aged children who are involved in sports and activities. 

 

Yet whenever I see a brilliant red cardinal flit across our backyard and alight on the bird feeder, I automatically stop whatever I’m doing and watch. The longer I sit and marvel at these creatures who can soar with the wind, the quieter my inner voice gets – the rather annoying voice that chatters incessantly, directing me to complete one task after another, after another. A few moments pass, and there is blessed silence in my mind, accompanied by a sense of peace.

 

Bird observation = forced relaxation.

 

It’s magical.

 

I get it now, this birdwatching activity. And I’m grateful that we live near an excellent resource for both learning about and observing area birds: Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center.

 

christmas bird count center facade

This December, I participated in an event at the center called the Christmas Bird Count. Considered the longest-running citizen science survey, this event is orchestrated through the National Audubon Society, and takes place from December 14 through January 5 each year.

 

Over 72,000 volunteers in the Western Hemisphere participate in this count, providing data for scientists to track the bird population. On one Saturday during this time, Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center organizes an event for people who want to participate in the count together, which is helpful for novice birders like me.

 

I honestly didn’t have a clue about what to expect on that chilly December morning. I’d envisioned bundling up in multiple layers of bulky clothing, hiking to a field, and then standing still and silent for several hours while counting each bird I spotted.

 

I guess I thought I’d be like a scarecrow for a day.

 

But the event was nothing like that (except for the part about warm clothes). The bird count participants met at the center at 8:00 a.m. and Education Director Chris Pistole, divided everyone into groups, with each group covering a different geographic region.

 

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While we were waiting for our assignments, I had the chance to talk to several people. For some of them, participating in the Christmas Bird Count was a family tradition, a way to spend quality time together while enjoying nature. Other people just come to the center to pick up the paperwork and then return to their homes to do the counting there. Then there’s Larry Herbert, an enthusiastic birder who’s been participating in the Christmas Bird Count for about 50 years, organizing the event locally for most of those years. That’s dedication!

 

I was fortunate to be assigned to Chris Pistole’s group; he’s a fantastic educator and definitely knows his birds! And, no, we didn’t have to brave the elements and stand in a field counting the birds that landed on our limbs. We enjoyed the warmth inside Chris’ heated car as he drove us to our assigned territory.

 

Chris occasionally pulled the car to the side of the road so we could sit quietly (all nice and snug), looking and listening for any birds. Any that we counted were recorded in the paperwork that we would turn in later at the center.

 

christmas bird count male cardinal

For people who aren’t birders, this might sounds boring, and I would have thought the same thing years ago. But participating in the bird count made me feel like I was on a scavenger hunt (well, I guess I kind of was). I’d squeal excitedly whenever I was able to identify a bird by its distinct call or flight pattern, liked I’d uncovered a clue.

 

Chris taught me a lot about birds in the few hours I spent with him. I learned that robins don’t leave our region during the winter; they only leave our backyards and gather together in the woods near a water source and return to our yards when the weather gets warmer. I learned that goldfinches change color in the winter, and I also learned how to tell the difference between a Red-headed Woodpecker and a Red-bellied Woodpecker (both of them have a degree of red markings on their head).

 

As far as the birds we counted, the majority of them were Northern Cardinals and European Starlings, but we saw many others, including this Northern Mockingbird in a field.

 

christmas bird count mocking 1

On our way back to the center, we came across this Red-shouldered Hawk in pursuit of a meal.

 

christmas bird count hawk wings

We watched as it stalked a mouse, grabbed it from the field, then flew with it to a nearby tree (which happened to be right above Chris’ car, so I had a close-up view of it tearing into its meal – yum).

 

christmas bird count hawk mouse

 

christmas bird count hawk tree

All of the groups met back at the center at noon to turn in their count paperwork, and a potluck lunch was provided by the Ozark Gateway Audubon Chapter. The center also held a Kids’ Christmas Bird Count in early January for little birders-to-be.

 

What a great idea to introduce this hobby to people while they’re young. No one needs to wait until retirement to experience the magical feeling of connecting with nature.

 

christmas bird count chloe 3

I dedicate this post to Chloe, my new outdoor friend. She returned to the feeder later today and I snapped this photo. Isn’t she heavenly?

 

For more information on the Christmas Bird Count and other nature programs, stop by Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center at 201 West Riviera Drive, or visit its website by clicking here.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

The Joplin Undercurrent

Destination marketing can be challenging, especially for a locations such as Joplin that lacks a signature event, or is known for a highly traveled to themed attraction. While unique, smaller towns are becoming a rising vacation trend, advertising to the traveler, in both print and digital formats, takes creativity to stand out among similar advertisements for like destinations.
 
Through a partnership developed a little more than a year ago, the Joplin CVB has been working with local photographer Mark Neuenschwander (9Art Photography) and writer Lance Schaubert on a new concept that the trio hopes will spark interest to bring visitors to Joplin.
 
Using a genre for the digital age, Neuenschwander and Schaubert introduced Joplin to the concept of a digital photonovel through their first joint venture, Cold Brewed, in 2012. A photonovel is a story told through dramatic images and text, but the reader’s experience unfolds like the adventure of reading a novel, combined with the visual excitement of a graphic novel. The techie will appreciate reading a captivating story with just the roll of a mouse.
 
On January 19th the JCVB will be unveiling the photonovel tourism marketing project, entitled The Joplin Undercurrent, with a storyline which combines historical accuracies as well as fiction, otherwise known as faction. Composed in the same vein as films we love such as The Da Vinci Code and National Treasure, The Joplin Undercurrent photonovel will depict some of what Joplin is best known for, while intertwining both real-life citizens and fictionalized characters.
 
Unlike traditional tourism marketing this project will not directly say, “Visit Joplin.” We hope this more understated approach, geared to people entrenched in the digital age, will spark an interest in visiting Joplin because of a desire to immerse themselves in the story’s location, similar to the way that novels or movies bring destinations into pop-culture and become tourist attractions. Communities such as Forks, Washington created special tours for visitors who flock there to put themselves into the fictional settings of the Twilight Saga, and why after 27 years, baseball enthusiasts still travel to Dubuque County (Dyersville) Iowa to step upon (or play a game on) the field created for the 1989 movie Field of Dreams.
 
The Joplin Undercurrent is a story of a young man and former Joplinite named Lee, who returns home to visit his ailing; perhaps even dying, mother. But when Lee asks his uncle for a visiting time, his uncle refuses to let him see her Frustrated, Lee wanders downtown and meets two other out-of-towners – a historian of sorts and a geologist with a strange specialization. They come to protect Joplin from a coming disaster but to do so they’ll have to solve a mystery hidden in Joplin’s past. A mystery involving Lee’s mother.
 
The opening chapters will be released at http://thejoplinundercurrent.co/ starting January 19th with subsequent chapters released weekly.
 
The new age of tourism marketing is set to launch January 19th.