When the cops closed a bootleg cigarette joint on Dorchester Avenue last summer, art educator Janet Lynch saw a chance to fulfill her longtime dream of opening a neighborhood facility where locals could explore their creative impulses.
Lynch, born and raised in Dorchester, jumped when the Boston Gift Shop at 1152 Dot Ave was shuttered for selling contraband. She rented and remodeled the Savin Hill building, debuting it on Oct. 20 during Dorchester Open Studios as the Dot Art Bar.
Lynch’s skills as a graphic artist are evident in the Bar’s logo: a rainbow array of oil paint tubes squirting out squiggles that mimics Sister Corita Kent’s gas tank design, complete with a partial profile of the scraggly bearded Ho Chi Minh in the blue streak.
A 1994 Mass College of Art graduate in Art Education, Lynch is already successfully using her social media skills to target likely patrons. Dorchester has its fair share of venues (like HallSpace, Howard Art Project, and Dorchester Open Studios) for professional and semiprofessional artists, but Lynch is catering to an after-business-hours adult crowd who want to socialize over arts and crafts activities.
Classes are held in the evenings, after work, and on weekends, times when casual artists go to unwind, socialize, and create. Small class sizes allow for individual instruction and create an intimate atmosphere where budding artists meet, drink, nibble on cheese, and dabble in paint. Lynch modeled her format on the successful one at Paint ‘n Pour in Maynard where a glass of wine also helps get creative juices flowing.
Dot Art Bar does not serve alcohol but students over 21 are allowed to bring their own beer or wine, and bottle service is provided. Says Lynch: “Dot Art Bar is the perfect place to gather with friends or to meet new people. The studio provides a convivial atmosphere for private parties, book clubs, wine clubs and seasonal events.”
The name “Dot Art Bar” makes some wonder if the storefront is connected with Dot Art (nickname for the Dorchester Community Center for the Visual Arts). Lynch asked her friend Liz Carney, Dot Art’s executive director, if there would be any problem with the name choice and she was assured there would not be one. In fact, both women see clearing up any questions as an opportunity to clarify that Dot Art mostly focuses on children’s classes and Dot Art Bar on adult sessions in acrylic on canvas and watercolor. Later, Lynch plans to share her secrets for customizing Converse sneakers.
That’s not to say that youngsters are unwelcome at 1152 Dot Ave. In fact, Lynch runs a free after-school drop-in class for neighborhood kids. And last Saturday, kids thronged the sunny studio space for face painting during a Dorchester Cash Mob-organized visit during which Lynch made $400 on a raffle and t-shirt and art work sales and the children made giant foam ornaments for the Peabody Square Christmas tree.
Bethany Bonner of Milton saw the Cash Mob invitation on Facebook and brought her son and daughter. She found the atmosphere “warm, welcoming, and kid focused.” In addition to helping with the big decorations, her children made smaller recycled glass ornaments to take home for their family tree. Bonner adds: “But they’re really excited about coming to see the firemen hang ‘their’ big creations in Peabody Square.”