The Modern Social

Photos by Matthew Busch/The Herald
Barb Bullock of Birdseye painted wine glasses sketched on canvas during The Modern Social painting and wine party April 19 at Amy McKeough’s home in Holland. Nicole McClain of Huntingburg started The Modern Social as a business in January.

Herald Staff Writer

A group of women spent a recent Friday evening at their friend Vanessa Hartke’s party at Amy McKeough’s Holland home drinking wine, nibbling on snacks and painting.

Most of the people in the group weren’t what you would call artists, though several had painted before.

“I’m not an artist,” partygoer Lana Flamion said. “I do good to draw straight lines.”

But being able to paint is not a prerequisite for the party sponsored by The Modern Social, a new company established by Nicole McClain of Huntingburg. The canvases were already sketched upon with the design of the evening: three wine glasses in front of a window.

“It’s just a time to socialize with your friends, laugh, drink a couple of beverages if you choose to do so and learn something new in a comfortable environment,” McClain said.

The only thing the guests needed to do was decide what colors they wanted to use on their paintings, choose their seats and use the directions laid out for them to create their masterpieces. To what extent the directions are followed is determined by each individual. McClain’s sample painting used black and shades of white and gray.

Vanessa Hartke of Holland picked up her artist palette to add some color to her paintbrush during The Modern Social painting and wine party April 19.

“I don’t follow directions,” Kathy Hamilton of Dale said as she painted her design with blue and red glasses on a yellow and brown background. Her friend Alice Pund, also from Dale, stuck with the black and white. Others picked up greens, yellows and gold, copper, purple, browns, pinks. McClain gives painting tips and offers suggestions for color blending to those who ask and encourages those who have never painted on a canvas and are afraid of messing up their work. Besides that, she makes small talk with the participants as she walks around to see how everyone’s concept of her sketch evolves as they paint.

“It shows everyone’s individuality,” she said. “We have only two rules here. Don’t place your paintbrush in your wine glass. And don’t drink the dirty paint water.”

The Modern Social organizes parties for adults and children, with the goal being that participants create a work of art. McClain said she saw the idea carried out by several brick-and-mortar companies while she lived in Nashville, Tenn.

“Everyone was required to paint the same painting in the same style,” she said, “and use the same colors.”

McClain thought the concept could be tweaked. “I knew I didn’t want a brick-and-mortar business,” she said. “Going to the host’s home is so much more stress free and relaxing.”

A daughter of Stan and Coletta (Mundy) Wehr, McClain, 35, grew up in an artist household, having received her talent from her father. Her sister, Natalie Wehr, is also artistic.

“I’ve always loved art as a child and began drawing comics that I saw in The Herald when I was little,” she said, “and it grew from then on.”

Amy McKeough, left, Audra Ellis and Vanessa Hartke, all of Holland, and Barb Bullock of Birdseye chatted as they drank wine before The Modern Social painting and wine party April 19.

She took art classes at Southridge High School and continued in college, earning a bachelor’s degree in art with an emphasis in graphic design and a minor in fine arts.

She wrote business and marketing plans for The Modern Social last October for a business class she was taking for her Master of Business Administration. She will complete her degree program with Florida Tech University this summer. McClain, who is widowed, works full time and is the mother of two, 8-year-old Olivia and 7-year-old Evan.

“I decided to embark on this new journey because it’s a creative outlet that I needed,” she said.

With the help of family and friends, McClain started The Modern Social part time in January, working a couple weekends a month, targeting adults ages 21 to 45 for modern art and wine parties like Vanessa’s. The hostess gets to choose the painting for her party from the selection in McClain’s portfolio.

She has received a lot of positive feed and requests for other kinds of parties, causing her to expand her services. She offers cupcakes and canvas birthday parties for children, in which each child creates a painting. The option for a corporate event includes “musical chairs painting,” at which attendees paint on a canvas for a period of time, and then switch seats to continue on another person’s canvas. She will have summer art programs in Huntingburg and Holland and a program in the fall for stay-at-home parents with their 2- and 3-year-olds.

“It has really taken off, McClain said. “This is now my main source of income.”

The price for the standard adult party is $25 per person, and the corporate painting package is offered for $35 per person. A session lasts two to three hours and must have least 12 participants but no more than 20.

Children’s parties cost $120 for a two-hour session for 10 children; more children can be added at a cost of $10 per child.

Alice Pund of Dale painted the edges of her canvas per the instructions during The Modern Social painting and wine party April 19.

McClain has received requests for parties for men, with the paintings focusing on interests like deer and sports. She also wants to expand to having socials for couples. “I think it would be a great bonding experience,” she said.

That was why Hartke wanted to have a party. “It’s a fun way to get together and enjoy each other’s creativity,” she said.

Several people at Hartke’s party turned their canvases upside down and painted that way, to make them look like glasses hanging from a rack instead of sitting on a table. One woman didn’t even follow the sketch, choosing instead to morph her canvas into a mass of greens with pastel butterflies floating around.

“They are all so different,” said Elaine Hunefeld of Holland. “That’s what makes it fun, to see what other people see and how they perceive their own painting.”

She sat with Flamion and they pretty much followed the directions McClain provided, though Flamion threw in spots of vibrant red to accent her wine glasses.

“It’s not bad,” she said of her creation. “I wanted to make all three glasses look different,” she said. “I mean, who has a whole set of matching glasses anyway?”

For more information on The Modern Social, contact McClain at 827-4458 or at


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