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Katie McQuaid's Scene in Manchester: Paint studio meets wine and beer bar

Special to The New Hampshire Union Leader

December 09. 2012 10:37PM

Muse Paint Bar is a fun place to go with a group of friends, on a date or even on your own. But be sure to check out the schedule before you go, or you could end up with a picture of a sad panda.

Muse co-owner Stan Finch gave some friends and me the opportunity to try out this new "paint studio meets wine and beer bar" on Hanover Street last Thursday during the studio's opening week. The space was warm and inviting. The instructor/co-owner Vanessa Leigh was patient and supportive as we used acrylic paint and a series of brushes to create the shape of our giant pandas on canvas.

Muse has dozens of paintings on its walls with options to fit everyone's tastes. At each class Leigh or another art instructor walks the class through a step-by-step process of reproducing one of the paintings. Some of the paintings, like Vincent van Gogh's "Starry Night," are well-known. Others were commissioned just for Muse Paint Bar.

When I decided to bring a group to Muse, I didn't realize you could go to the website,, to see which painting is scheduled to be taught each day. And mine was not the only group with a distaste for the sad panda. Campbell High School Social Studies teacher Nate Cooper said he would support our anarchist movement to choose a new painting for the evening. But others in the class had actually checked the online schedule and come to Muse with the express purpose of leaving with a sad panda painting. Our uprising was quickly quashed, and the dissidents respectfully embraced the sad panda like an elected leader from an opposing party.

Leigh made it clear this was our experience and our canvas and we could paint our panda any way we wished. He could be happy or purple or, in one member of our group's case - an owl. But I am a proud rule-follower with no imagination of my own, so I followed Leigh's instructions with an attempt to create a panda as sad as the original. And I am pretty proud of my panda. It's just not really the dcor esthetic of my home. On a positive note, I have an excellent Yankee Swap gift for an upcoming party.

Regular painting sessions at Muse are $35 and leave plenty of time to be social, check out other people's interpretation of the painting, and purchase wine, beer or a snack. The room can hold 50 painters at once, so it is also a great activity for private events, fundraisers and kids parties

We really did have a wonderful time, and I will definitely be back after I check the Muse schedule to choose a painting I am more likely to hang in my living room.

This is for the ladies

When I saw the stiletto featured in The Rouge Grille's logo, it told me this new Elm Street establishment could be one of two things. And since I knew the owners were not the type to open a place that "entertains" men, I figured this must be a restaurant for chicks.

Friends who have dined at The Rouge Grille since it opened several weeks ago said their husbands declined the lipstick-shaped pens that were offered on their way into the restaurant, but they enjoyed the food. Located in the former Z Food & Drink space, The Rouge Grille was opened by the team of restaurateurs who have brought us a quickly growing list of restaurants in the area including The Red Arrow Diners, Ignite Bar & Grill and Divots on the River.

With a menu that features "International Fusion Cuisine" like a Sizzling Luis Vuitton Salad and Vindaloo Curry Alfredo Haddock, The Rouge Grille sounds like the perfect place for a girls' night out or a guy who wants to impress his date by proving this chick restaurant is no threat to his masculinity.

Studio 550 is back

A while back, The Scene mentioned a new art studio that was supposed to open earlier this year. But as anyone who has ever tried to open a building for business knows, opening on time is a rarity. Studio 550 owner Monica Leap is happy to announce her building at 550 Elm St. is now ready for an open house this Saturday.

Studio 550 is unlike any art studio I've ever seen. In addition to traditional classes in clay building, pottery and stained glass, there are many "movement" classes like yoga, fire spinning and martial arts. The studio also rents memberships for budding artists looking for a flexible way to learn how to create with clay or experienced artists looking for a creative home and the use of equipment.

This Saturday's event offers free classes every hour from 2 to 6 p.m. and a gallery reception with informal performances, refreshments and handmade pottery from more than 40 artists around the state from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The night continues until midnight with an Argentine tango class followed by an Argentine tango milonga, or social dance, for $10.

Leap credits her parents, who she said fled Cambodia in the 1970s, for teaching her about courage and sacrifice. She's waited so long to make this dream a reality, I'd say they gave her a healthy dose of patience, too.

You can read more about the studio, the open house schedule and classes scheduled to begin Jan. 7 at

Last chance for limo and lights

This Thursday is the last day to email me a picture of a Christmas lights display for a chance to win a Holiday Lights Tour from Grace Limousine. Be sure to email your name and information about where the photo was taken to They don't even have to be your lights.

The person who sends the winning picture will get a 3-hour limousine tour for nine people from Grace Limousine. Thank you to readers who have already sent in pictures. I will announce the winner in next week's column.

You can see some official rules at and see some of the photos already entered. Event of the Week

The Friends of Stark Park are bringing the community together for some good, old-fashioned Christmas caroling this Sunday from 4 to 5 p.m. in the park's beautiful bandstand.

Musical accompaniment and song sheets will be provided and a community choral group led by Christine Munz, and Deacon Edward Munz will be on hand to drown out anyone who can't carry a tune. The event is free, but attendees are asked to bring a non-perishable food item donation for the New Horizons Soup Kitchen. Be sure to dress warmly and bring your battery-operated candle or flashlight.

For more information on this and other events around the state, visit

If you have an interesting item for Scene in Manchester, email it to

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