Smack dab in the middle of dreary, dark February sits a day made just for inspiration: Valentine’s Day. This year, why not nix the traditional chocolates and flowers and get creative? Bend may be known for its outdoor recreation, but our local cultural scene is thriving and has plenty to offer for a night out with the arts. Art wakes up our brains, and brings us together. Whether we’re part of an audience or up to our elbows in paint, experiencing art impacts our body chemistry in positive ways. It lowers cortisol, the stress hormone, and raises oxytocin, the hormone of love and bonding. It lights up parts of our brain that often get neglected. In other words, art keeps us happy and connected. And isn’t that what Valentine’s Day is about? To help you get into the creative zone, we’ve rounded up a sampling of inspired art outings available throughout the month of February. From painting and film to theater or dance, we think you’ll find the perfect way to share an evening of art with someone you adore. So make a date with your sweetheart, your bestie, or the whole clan, and take heart in the arts.

Painting

 (column “Date night” FPO)

For those of us who haven’t created art since grade school, now is your chance. With wine in one hand and a paintbrush in the other, anyone can create frame-worthy art. Splash: wine/paint/create offers guided sessions and events in their studio or can bring the painting party to you. SplashWPC.com

(Column “Family Night Out” FPO)

 At Studio Create, your family can express itself on artwork you’ll use for years. Pottery, from mugs to platters, serves as the blank canvas for your painting and is an art form for all ages. StudioCreateBend.com

Theater

(column “Date night” FPO)

Love is in the air at Cascades Theatrical Company in February as the local troupe performs Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker. It’s the comedic tale of a shop owner seeking love through the services of an irrepressible matchmaker who creates convoluted mix-ups that resolve in unexpected ways. CascadesTheatrical.org

(Column “Family Night Out” FPO)

Inspire a love of live performance and check out the impressive talent among Bend’s younger generation at BEAT Children’s Theatre’s February production, Honk! Jr. It’s a modern musical adaptation of the classic tale The Ugly Duckling, with a timely message. BeatChildrensTheatre.org

Live Music

(column “Date night” FPO)

With a world-class lineup from October through March, the Jazz at the Oxford series warms up winter nights like nothing else in Bend. Sax phenomenon Paul Taylor brings his trademark fusion of jazz, funk and soul for three February shows, and they are sure to be unforgettable. OxfordHotelBend.com

 (Column “Family Night Out” FPO)

Get your Glee on at the fourth-annual A Capella Festival, held February 7-9 at Summit High School, where top-notch high school and collegiate groups compete for glory and cash. Guaranteed to keep your family harmonizing. BendAcappellaFestival.com

Global Culture

 (column “Date night” FPO)

 Spice up date night with a drop-in class at Latin Dance Bend, and learn some new salsa and bachata moves. Tuesday intro classes cover the basics of lead-and-follow partner dancing, salsa-style, while Thursday’s drop-ins introduce Rueda de Casino, a Cuban circular salsa dance. LatinDanceBend.com

(Column “Family Night Out” FPO)

Explore mountain culture around the world through indie film at Mountainfilm, a two-night festival (Feb. 22-23) of adventure-packed short films sure to spark curiosity about the world and appreciation of our own backyard. EnviroCenter.com