New art series at New London Theatre brings together painting and cocktails

Local art educator Maria Novak is teaching attendees all about four famous Impressionist artists in the cool vibe of the theatre.

Maria Novak teaches at Creativity and Cocktails.
Art teacher Maria Novak, on stage, teaches a group of painters at the March 2 Creativity and Cocktails at the New London Little Theatre. The painting was of birches in the Impressionist style.
Contributed / New London Little Theatre

NEW LONDON โ€” For those who have always wanted to learn to paint like an Impressionist master, but worry about not being any good or wasting expensive materials, the New London Little Theatre might have the perfect art class for you.

Creativity and Cocktails brings together painting and drinks to create a unique painting class experience in the cool, lounge vibe of the Little Theatre.

"It is super fun and relaxing," said Bethany Lacktorin, program director at the Little Theatre and chairperson of the Crow River Players.

The art series, taught by local arts educator Maria Novak, is four different events through late winter and early spring where Novak teaches about a specific Impressionist style or artist. For its first event on March 2, the group of about 12 participants painted their version of birch trees in the Impressionist style. The next event, at 6 p.m. March 23, will take a look at Vincent Van Gogh and his famous sunflowers. On April 13, the event will be Cezanne's Bird Nest and the last event on May 11 will look at Matisse and windows.

Creativity and Cocktail painters.jpg
The painters from the March 2, 2023, Creativity and Cocktails event show off their finished masterpieces in the New London Little Theatre.
Contributed / New London Little Theatre

Novak said she chose this group of artists and paintings because most people will be familiar with them. The Impressionist style is open to interpretation and experimentation, making it perfect for artists of all skills and levels.


"It takes the pressure off the learner," Novak said. "It gives the opportunity to make artistic choices."

Lacktorin took part in the birches event and said Novak has a great talent for teaching art to beginners, including sharing some of the history behind the art and the techniques that make up the art.

"Maria is a tremendous teacher," Lacktorin said. "She makes magic out of nothing."

Novak said she is dedicated to teaching basic skills while also introducing new painters to different techniques, styles, textures and energy. Hopefully taking part in the class will encourage people to discover art on their own, Novak said.

"I love helping people get comfortable with creativity," Novak said.

Cocktails at New London Little Theatre.jpg
Painters can also enjoy some creative cocktails from the Little Theatre's bar.
Contributed / New London Little Theatre

The art isn't the only draw, of course. During the event, the Little Theatre bar is open, allowing painters to purchase and enjoy the many different cocktails created by the theater's bar staff. There is also beer and wine available, and all the cocktails can be made into mocktails so those who don't want to or can't drink alcohol can still enjoy all the fun.

If one wants to take part in a Creativity and Cocktails event, they must pre-register at least 24 hours prior to the event, so Novak knows how much supplies to bring. All materials are provided, and the first beverage is covered in the ticket price. Tickets can be purchased on the Little Theatre's website for $25. People can also email to join. The events are open to all 15 years and older.

The Creativity and Cocktails art series is just one many ways the theater board has opened the space up to new opportunities. Instead of just being a facility for plays, the Little Theatre is providing much needed space for other creative programming โ€” from radio theater and open mic nights to art classes.


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The next Creativity and Cocktails is March 23, 2023, and will look at Vincent Van Gogh's "Sunflowers."
Contributed / New London Little Theatre

"We knew we could do it," Novak said, who once served on the theater board. "It is very casual."

Even with just one event under their belt, Novak believes it has been a success and could be a great late winter event series to bring back in the future. Both Novak and Lacktorin hopes a good crowd of budding artists come join them for the next three events starting with Thursday's sunflowers.

"I'm curious to see how Van Gogh does," Lacktorin said.

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email or direct 320-214-4373.

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