In Inglewood, a thriving art studio brings the community together
On a cool Saturday night in October, 16 women sat quietly at an art studio in the heart of the historic business district in Inglewood. Each concentrated intently on a canvas in front of her, a paintbrush in hand.
Low music filled the hushed space between the overlapping swish-swish-swish sound of 16 brushes as they contacted the canvases. A painting instructor walked between the tables, giving pointers and feedback.
Suddenly, the silence was sliced by a whoop, and the whole room exploded into laughter and cheers. One of the women had dipped the paintbrush in her glass of wine instead of the rinse water.
“It always happens. Someone always dips their brush in their wine … [the paint] is non-toxic, don’t worry,” studio co-owner Tracy Shields-Johnson told the group, grinning.
It is an occupational hazard at a paint and sip night, which is the stock-in-trade of the studio, A Toast 2 Artistry.
At galleries and studios throughout Los Angeles the activity is a popular alternative to the bar scene. Customers can bring a bottle of wine, paint a predetermined design with the guidance of an experienced artist and leave with something to hang on their wall.
Shields-Johnson and her business partner, La Sandra Jackson, bought A Toast 2 Artistry in 2017, then in downtown Los Angeles. Jackson was a fixture at that studio. She was so much a part of the place that when the previous owners were ready to sell, they offered the business to her.
“It was my outlet,” she said.
The sellers told Jackson they felt it would do better outside the downtown area, and the new co-owners knew just where they wanted to move.
“It wasn’t our community [downtown],” Shields-Johnson, a longtime Inglewood resident, said. “A Toast 2 Artistry is about so much more than paint and sip. It’s about community, it’s about bonding. We wanted to bring it to Inglewood with all the stuff that’s happening here.”
There is a lot happening here.
With the development of the LA Stadium and Entertainment District–future home of the Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, a performing arts venue, hotel, office, residential and green park space–Inglewood is about to have a busy decade.
The city will host the 2022 Super Bowl. It is in negotiations with the Clippers who want to build a dedicated NBA arena on Century Boulevard. It may host some of the FIFA World Cup games in 2026, and it is already scheduled to host the 2028 Summer Olympic Games opening and closing ceremonies. The Los Angeles Philharmonic is going to build the first dedicated space for its signature youth music program around the corner from city hall. Even the Girl Scouts are coming, with plans to move their regional office from Marina Del Rey.
Jackson and Shields-Johnson recognized a city with business growth potential when they saw it, and their business is steadily growing. The studio will celebrate its one-year anniversary in Inglewood in December.
On that Saturday evening A Toast 2 Artistry was set up for 16 clients, and it was full. A lot of customers were there because of word-of-mouth, but others searched online for a paint and sip night that matched their taste.
The painting everyone recreated was a portrait of an African-American woman with big natural hair and delicate bare shoulders, wearing a crown.
“I wanted something Afro-centric,” Briana Nichols, a paint and sip veteran, said. The Long Beach resident drove to Inglewood after she found the studio through a Google search. “A lot of places, you do sunsets and things. I wanted to do something that I would actually hang on my wall.”