Inspired by the popular Paint Nite  events, the Westerville Public Library decided to bring the programming to their patrons for free! The program allows attendees of any skill level to recreate beautiful paintings by following guided, step-by-step instructions from the artist who created the original painting. To keep down costs, artist and youth librarian Becky O'Neil guided our attendees in replicating the night's featured painting.
When I thought about bringing a Paint Night program to the library, I had a few goals in mind. I wanted to plan a fun, engaging and interactive event that allowed atendees to walk away with something they created. And I wanted to be able to do that at no cost to the patrons.
I started to plan the event a few months in advance. I reserved a meeting room in the library; booked an artist, one of my coworkers, to lead the event; and bought materials. Becky, our artist, advised me what supplies I needed and also was able to paint a sample painting for attendees to replicate.
The program was promoted in print in our Quartely Event Guide for adults and online through our online events calender. Marketing was extremely successful as the concept of the event was familiar to patrons. Within a few days, the program filled up, and we had to make a wait list.
My budget was spent on art supplies and food. I bought tabletop easles, paint brushes, 16-by-20 canvas panels and acrylic paint. Some of these items, like the easles and brushes, only need to be bought once, which keeps down costs if you host future programs.
Other suggestions to keep costs low include:
- Reach out to your community to find an instructor. Try finding your local Art League or asking an art teacher from a local school.
- Find discounts! Our library is signed up with the Staples Advantage program, so many of the supplies I needed were bought at a lower price.
- Use coupons and tax exemptions: Go to Hobby Lobby or Jo-Ann Fabric to find other art supplies like canvases and easles. I used coupons and the library's tax exemption form to buy a six-pack of canvases.
Before the event, we set up the meeting room as follows:
- We placed rectangular tables in a U-shape facing the instructor.
- Butcher paper was placed on the tables.
- Easles were set at wide intervals so attendees did not feel restricted.
- Styrofoam plates and clean water were placed at teach paint station.
- A projector and screen were set up to show a photo presentation of the artist's painting step by step.
- Extra tables were set up to hold food and water.
Only two staff members were present during the event. Becky, the artist, instructed the program, and I assisted her by ferrying supplies.
The program was very successful, especially for a first-time effort. Collaboration between the Adult Department (marketing, registration, supplies) and the instructor (program content and execution) contributed to the success of the program. The two staff members led a program for nine participants. As the attendees had many questions and needed lots of paint refilled, it became clear that we would not have been able to accommodate a larger group very well. We received positive feedback from everyone who attended, and patrons can't wait for the next Paint Night in a few months.
You can do an event like this from scratch sd long as you tap into the community resources around you. I would try and keep the program size small so you don't overwhelm yourself or the instructor. Also, buy extra supplies.
We also faced some challenges with the program execution. Because the event was so popular, we had to place people on a wait list to keep the teacher/student ratio low. On the day of the program, someone from the wait list showed up and started to paint. When the patron who was actually registered for the event showed up, all the easles were taken. I had extra supplies, so I offered to make space for the registered person, but they declined. Next time, I will check in people at the door.
About This Library
The Westerville Public Library serves the community of Westerville, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. As a school district library, its geographic boundaries are defined by the Westerville City School District (population: 90,000). The library employs 106 staff members.