1. Hernando

Weeki Wachee studio throws doors open to aspiring artists or friends looking for a night out.

WEEKI WACHEE -- Evie Harper has slotted her Traveling Art Parties SUV in short-term parking, all the better to accommodate just-for-fun artists in a bricks-and-mortar studio.

The artist still will travel to your chosen site to stage an art class for a club or group. The studio, however, allows individuals on a whim, or perhaps a few friends, to gather and paint or craft with a good measure of fun and conviviality on the side.

"This is my bucket list," Harper, 61, said. "I always wanted to have my own place."

She is self-taught, but suggests that creating art is in her genes. Her mother was an artist. "In grade school, I got in trouble all the time for doodling," Harper said.

Attesting to her talent, she regularly won honors in years past for her mixed-media entries at area arts and crafts festivals. She's now switched from showing off to sharing her skills.

After her local franchise of Paint with a Twist closed last summer, Harper embarked on her own studio in September.

"I didn't want to do a franchise because there were too many things I wanted to offer," she said.

That ranges from acrylic painting classes to crafting glitter glasses and designing facial glamour with eye makeup. In the planning: oil painting and clay-to-canvas creations.

Harper suggests group sessions for corporate team building, bridal and baby showers, graduation celebrations and birthday parties.

Daytime classes tend to draw retirees. Younger adults bring their own beverages, including wine and beer, and are attracted to evening sessions.

"Never painted before?" Harper inquires of a newcomer. "Grab an apron; pick a seat."

The 1200-square-foot studio can accommodate up to 35 patrons. Sessions generally run two to three hours. Most are priced at $35.

"I include every single thing they need," Harper said, "brushes, canvas, paints, an artist (instructor) on stage." A coffee pot is perking in a kitchen nook. Creations of past students cover the walls, offering inspiration.

The bubbling and can-do personalities of Harper and roving helpers McKenzie Montecalvo and Autumn Proctor challenge and encourage the students, from kids to great-grandparents.

On a recent weekday afternoon, repeat student Christine Dowell of Weeki Wachee glazed a stemmed glass.

"(Harper) can teach anyone to do this stuff," she said, "because it's not so precise."

Added Tracy Gantt of Hernando Beach, another returnee, "She's so giving and kind in teaching people."

Eileen Tennyson of Spring Hill, painting her fourth canvas under Harper's tutelage, praised the leader's accommodating ways.

"I have trouble blending colors," she said. "I'm color blind." Hand up, Tennyson motioned for help to select the best color for the lustrous blue peacock in her naturescape.

"We try to spark everyone's happiness," Harper said.

Travelling Art Parties is in Weeki Wachee Village plaza at 6248 Commercial Way. The office is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with classes starting 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Phone (352) 600-8086; website

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