This post was written by Shelby Muff.

In a college town full of bars, sometimes it’s nice to go out for a drink without having to elbow your way up to a vodka-splattered counter, stand with your two bucks and wait for the 20-something probably-drunk bartender to notice you.

That’s something every undergrad faces, an ongoing right of passage after your 21st birthday. I won’t always want to dress in tight-fitting clothing and hop from bar to bar, hoping I don’t freeze to death, break a heel or, worse, throw up on my new online-ordered dress. I know this is hard to believe because I’m a young woman in my fourth year attending a public university, and I need my girls’ nights just as much as the next sorority sister. Who knows, maybe I’ll get “wastey-faced” occasionally for the next 10 years.

But, I made a choice to put away my 6-inchers (yes, the ones with faux snakeskin) and I opted for my plaid long-sleever instead. It was time to combine an acquired ability to down at least two cheap Gin ’n Tonics (thanks Harpo’s Fridays, aka Ladies’ Night) and an inherited creativity (thanks to my artistically inclined mother).

Painting and drinking: It’s a thing and there’s a place for it in Columbia.

Paint The Town combines multiple glasses of Chardonnay and splotches of paint on paper plates. And it’s a more entertaining time than wrenching your neck and yelling into your BFF’s ear over the bumpin’ trap music. It was socially refreshing, or maybe the wine made me feel that way.

No matter the real source of enjoyment, the combination caused my creative juices to flow, speech to slightly slur and the hosts to happily encourage my sloppy strokes, which made the night especially worth the time and money.

You can’t underestimate the value of genuine interaction with locals, and maybe that’s what I was thirsty for: a satisfaction beyond tipsy. At some point, collegiate bliss has to include a different kind of “after hours” that still includes the happy hour.

After the pre-paint toast, I knew I’d chosen to do the proper thing with my night. The mother-daughter pair across from me seemed to agree, having swapped their almost-night-out downtown bar for a night on the town painting.

“Now I’m really glad we didn’t go to Piano,” says the daughter.

“This is far more fun,” says the mom.

An unspoken consensus came from the rest of the room but only I nodded in agreement. Painters sang along to the surround-sound songs and seemed to lose track of time altogether. One woman even forgot where she was, asking, “What’s this place called again?” The step-by-step session was two and a half hours long, from 9:30 to 12:00 a.m., and involved three short trips to both the paint and alcoholic bars (or four, depending on who was driving home).

The hosts called it liquid inspiration, but I call it creative cultivation­ — of friendships, not hangovers.

(Photo on the homepage: Sarah Rothberg/Missourian)

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