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Desire for fun motivates owner of Greensburg's Painting With a Twist

| Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, 7:27 p.m.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Judy Ridilla, franchise owner of Painting With a Twist in Hempfield Twp., sits for a portrait on Oct. 19, 2016.

When Judy Ridilla finishes her day as a corporate insurance broker, she heads to her a Painting With a Twist franchise store in Greensburg, which she opened in September 2015. The Greensburg resident spends evenings and weekends there, sharing her love of art with others. Her business partner is her daughter, Jennifer Helferstay of St. Louis, a graphic designer who does social-media marketing for the franchise.

Question: What's made painting parties so popular?

Answer: For two hours, you get to forget about life's woes, and you leave with a beautiful painting that you did and you can be proud of to hang in your home.

Q: How did you learn about them?

A: My daughter took me to Painting With a Twist in Pittsburgh as a Christmas gift, and we had so much fun that I couldn't get it out of my mind. I thought, “We need something like this in Greensburg, something for couples or singles to do other than the bar scene.”

Q: Of all the painting-party-type businesses, what intrigued you about this one in particular?

A: It was originally started by two women who wanted to raise money for victims of Hurricane Katrina. They got hold of some artists, bought wine and invited people to come. They were very successful in raising funds for those families, so when it took off, they decided to open a retail shop. People from all over the United States were coming to New Orleans, saying, “We want to do this in our hometown,” so the owners decided to franchise it.

They're the type of people that, when you buy a franchise, you're family. When you walk up to them, they don't put their hand out, they give you a hug. They were people I wanted to partner with.

Q: What's your art background?

A: I've been a corporate insurance broker for 30 years, but my passion is art and crafts. I taught stained glass for seven years in a local studio. I've made things to sell on Etsy.

Q: Do you have any formal training?

A: I did not study art, but I can look at something and know how to do it, so I teach myself. I also taught my daughter how to paint.

Q: How many instructors do you have?

A: There are 10 employees — some are students, some are teachers. This is all part-time work, and I would say most of my artists have two or three jobs. Three of my artists are in the master's program for art therapy (at Seton Hill University), but not all of my artists have an art background.

Q: How do you choose them?

A: During the interview, they are asked to paint a certain painting. They're not going to finish it, but what I mostly want to see is their presence on stage. I'm not really looking for their artwork but for the entertainment factor of the artist. You could have a really fantastic artist up there who's really kind of bland. I want the high-energy, upbeat, get-you-going person.

Q: What will the first-time painter find at your store?

A: We have over 6,000 copywritten paintings. Artists all over the U.S. who are part of the franchise have come up with these paintings, and the franchise protects their copyright. For example, there's a calendar on the website for (the month), so you can look at that to see what we have for that night. We offer several paintings each day. If you don't like the painting for the day, you can reserve the private party room and choose your own painting.

Q: What else happens?

A: We play games, we spin a prize wheel, we have music playing, people get up and dance or sing; so it's just a really good time. You can bring a bottle of wine and snacks and enjoy yourself. If you've had a heck of a day, it's a great way to unwind.

A: Is this mostly a girl thing, or do guys like it, too?

Q: The guys are usually dragged in, and that's my challenge right there. They say, “I don't know how to paint,” and I say, “You don't have to know how to paint to do this. This is a fun night out as a couple.” When they leave, I've had men come up to me and say, “I love this and I'm coming back.” I know my job's done when I hear that.

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750 or

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