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Painting and Drinking at Splash Studio

Sep. 17, 2012
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Splash Studio: A Painting Bar (184 N. Broadway) opened March 21 in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward. David Poytinger splits owning and operating duties with his wife, Marla Hahn.

The name screams duality. Are you more studio or bar?

Paint like a studio, drink like a bar. First and foremost, though, we’re a gallery. We like to say: a reinvention of the traditional space.

Milwaukeeans like to “drink and…”—engage in art walks, brewery tours, concerts, festivals, pedaling, shuffleboard, softball, trivia, volleyball, etc. How does Splash compare?

You can wake up with a hangover, empty pockets and a pulled hamstring, or you can wake up with a hangover, empty pockets and a painting. We’re one of the most innovative painting/drinking experiences in the country. Local artists guide groups through the painting process. We built and designed the experience as downtown urban chic, a nice night out. You can come dressed to the nines, put on a smock and get to work.

But with all that money for booze, who buys art?

Milwaukee can be a tough market. But I think we’re doing our part. We hire locally, so we’re employing artists. We offer them gallery space—without commission; 100% goes to the artist. We think if you work with an artist, know and understand them, you’re more likely to purchase their work.

One session participant loved the experience because: “It’s a chance to create like a kid, but have a drink like an adult—best of both worlds.” Can people bring their dad’s old work shirt as a smock?

We’ve got nice aprons, too.

What do people paint?

It varies. We’re excited for an upcoming session on video-game-themed art. We’ll have Super Secret Sessions during the next two Gallery Nights. We have glow-in-the-dark painting—1,000 watts of black light and an artist explaining, essentially, how to paint in the dark. And 3-D painting—you get goggles and work on how red, blue and yellow paint move forward and fall back, visually.

How much experience is needed?

Zero. Our artists “Teach to the Timid.” But nobody has to follow step by step. Creativity always goes its own route. We’re supportive either way. We know there will be something for everyone, and it will be a different experience each time.

Yours is a joint husband/wife venture.

It’s great. I love her. We work together well and balance each other out with different skill sets. It’s a challenge, in that we both have day jobs. But it’s a true passion project. We love it. We believe in it. It’s a joy.

Why should people visit?

It’s not a six-month commitment. Sessions are just three hours, one time. You can come in anytime, saddle up to the bar and paint a $10 mini-painting. We’ve got an art book library, if you need inspiration. You can drink for inspiration, too. And we just changed our permit, so you can sit outside and paint and drink. And we clean the brushes.


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