Wine & Design is a true family affair, the partnership of Sherrie and Scott Ward, and Sherrie’s sister Charlotte Faraci. Located on upper West Street, the bright, colorful studio offers teacher-led painting sessions on pre-drawn canvases, making art accessible to all skill levels. Wine and beer are served by the glass or bottle, and the whole thing has a light, party atmosphere, creating a great way for friends to enjoy a creative night out.
The Face Behind the Mask
Charlotte had been working there as an artist instructor in 2018, when the owner decided to sell. She broached the idea to her sister of taking it on as a family endeavor, and they decided to go for it. “It was something we could grow with as a family,” says Sherrie. “Our daughter is an art major at Towson State University, so it was a way to bring the kids in as well as spend more time with Charlotte. And we really liked the idea of being downtown and being a part of the community here.”
Another plus: The business was already established so they didn’t need to change much. “That was part of the appeal,” says Sherrie. “We could come in and everything was there, ready to go.”
Sherrie Ward of Wine & Design
Then COVID-19 hit and they had to rethink. “A few weeks after the stay at home order was implemented, we realized that the situation was going to last for more than a couple of weeks and we had to adapt,” says Sherrie.
They moved their classes online, and began operating remotely. Going virtual gave them a reason to reach out to customers, and their community- a way to stay connected. “We were trying to keep ourselves out there as a presence,” says Sherrie. “And when people are stuck at home, they need something to do.” They put the word out to existing clients at first, focusing on downtown residents who could walk over, pop in and pick up a painting kit to-go. It was a hit.
Wine & Design, Virtual Classes
With the virtual classes, the $27 class fee gets you a canvas, pre-sketched with the design for that class, plus paint, paper plates for mixing, paper towels and a color printout of your painting to follow along. (If you want to add brushes, the price is $37.) You pick up your kit the day before or day of, and then at the appropriate time, you log in for the class. “You still get the experience of personal instruction and of painting with friends,” says Sherrie. “With the Zoom link, you can have one big party online at home.”
As an instructor, Charlotte had to adjust her approach to suit the new environment. “It is different,” she says. “In person, if someone is having an issue in a class, I can just walk over and fix it,” she says. “Now I have to be more descriptive with my language and more precise in my direction, so there aren’t any mistakes.”
Wine & Design, In-person Classes
Now that things have opened up, they have resumed offering in–person classes as well, limited to 10 people max to allow for social distancing. Masks are required on entering, and when standing or moving around; guests can remove them when seated. (The instructor stays masked the whole time.) The classes are also available virtually if you’re more comfortable joining in from home.
The painting options run the gamut, from colorful, kid-friendly alpacas and narwhals to more sophisticated designs. Maryland themes are always popular, be it our state flag or the Van Gogh-style Annapolis skyline created by Charlotte. Wine-themed paintings are popular, of course, as are landscapes from beaches to wine country. Don’t see what you want? They can design anything custom as well. “I had a lady who loved bald eagles, so I made a custom paint kit for her,” says Charlotte.
They welcome private parties and team-building events, and if you book at least 5 seats for an in–person class, you can select the painting for that night. They also have monthly in-studio pop-ins, and a selection of pre-recorded classes, available on demand.
While virtual classes and painting kits were borne of necessity, the sisters plan to keep them going. “When things are back to normal, we can fill the studio and offer virtual classes for overflow guests, so no one will be left out,” says Sherrie. This family makes pivoting an art.