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Family Art Night at Davis Studio 

click to enlarge Theo paints his monster truck - ALISON NOVAK
  • alison novak
  • Theo paints his monster truck
Davis Studio, 916 Shelburne Rd., South Burlington

Friday night in my house usually means collapsing on the couch for takeout pizza and a movie. But in April, my family kick-started our weekend with a more ambitious, and creative, pursuit: painting pottery at the Davis Studio. Several times a month, the stately building on Shelburne Road — home to an art-focused preschool, afterschool classes and camps — opens its doors to families for alternating pottery-painting and canvas-painting sessions.

We didn't have to forsake our beloved Friday night pizza though. When the studio moved from a labyrinthine warehouse space on Pine Street to its new location on Shelburne Road last year, it added food and drink to its offerings. The Starving Artist Café serves up breakfast, lunch and snacks Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday brunch from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., with cleverly named dishes like Monet's Garden Omelet, Vincent Van Goghgurt and Warhol's Soup of the Day. There's even a designated coloring room for kids on Sundays.

click to enlarge Dinner at the Starving Artist Café - ALISON NOVAK
  • alison novak
  • Dinner at the Starving Artist Café

On Friday nights, the café turns out homemade pizza with a variety of veggie and meat toppings and two kinds of salad, so families can fill their bellies before the art-making sessions. If you call ahead to preorder your pizza, they'll have it ready any time after 5 p.m.

We took advantage of this option. When we got to Davis Studio at 5:15, our doughy, cheesy pie was fresh out of the oven. My kids, 9-year-old Mira and 7-year-old Theo, gobbled it up. My husband, Jeff, and I shared a kale Caesar salad as well. The service was super friendly and the meal, including non-alcoholic drinks, came to just over $30.

The painting class, which ran from 6 to 7:30, had a relaxed vibe. We headed to one of the studios and found seats around a long, paint-splattered table. The instructor called up our group of around 15 kids and adults one by one to pick a piece of bisque pottery to paint. I chose a bowl, Jeff snagged a lidded jar and Mira picked a plate. Theo went in a less practical direction and chose an impressive monster truck.

The instructor offered a few painting tips. Then we got to work with paintbrushes and little jars of glaze with names like Caramel and Raspberry, embellishing our items with different colors and designs. It was a surprisingly calming and meditative activity that kept even my energy-filled first grader focused and in his seat for a considerable chunk of time.

click to enlarge Mira finishes her sunset plate - ALISON NOVAK
  • alison novak
  • Mira finishes her sunset plate

I envisioned an abstract design for my bowl, which I didn't execute exactly as I'd hoped, but it was fun nonetheless. Jeff turned his jar into a cupcake with a cherry on top and paint-specked sprinkles, and Theo worked diligently coating the tires of his monster truck with layers of black paint. Mira won the prize for most impressive masterpiece with the purple, pink and yellow sunset she painted across her plate.

We finished our work in a little over an hour, then set our pieces on a counter to dry. After being fired in the kiln, they'd be ready to pick up in a week. Before we headed home, the kids picked out homemade popsicles from the café freezer as a post-class treat. With chunks of kiwi, orange and berries frozen inside, even they looked artsy.

At $25 per person, the experience wasn't cheap and probably won't be a regular family activity for us. But the Davis Studio provides a fun alternative to the couch on a Friday night.

Find more information about Davis Studio's Family Nights at davisstudiovt.com. Upcoming Pizza & Painted Pottery Nights are Friday, May 5, and Friday, June 23. Upcoming Pizza & Painted Canvas Nights are Friday, May 26, & Friday, June 9. The studio also offers Paint & Sip Nights for ages 21 and up several times a month.

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