When most other people are whining and crying about the pandemic, economy and lack of help and goods, Lorri Lee Miller is taking a bold step and opening a new business in Mount Pleasant — Main Street Art Center. An artist herself, she wondered why Mount Pleasant didn’t have an art center like all the other surrounding communities—Burlington, Fort Madison, Fairfield and Washington.
Aware of the substantial artist community within Mount Pleasant, and wanting a place to display her own art without having to travel to another town, she looked for an available space. Voila, 106 S. Main St., beside Brown’s Shoe Fit was available.
A 2,000 square feet building with a window on Main Street, it is ideal for what she wants to establish: a non-profit art center that will feature an art store, gallery, classroom and studio for artists who need a place to work. The Main Street Art Center will be for fine art only, no crafts.
A board of directors is being formed, and all art in the art center will be juried by the board. Artist memberships will be sold and a small commission charged for art sales.
Formerly a clothing store and church, a nice feature Lorri Lee is hanging onto is a large mirror on the wall. She’s going to put a sign above the mirror that says, “Portrait of an Artist.” She wants artists to see themselves in the mirror and recognize who they are— artists.
Lorri Lee is the designer and brains behind the art center. Her husband, Tim, is the handyman. A former carpenter, he is quite adept at constructing walls, shelves and partitions. She tells him what she wants and he figures out how to do it. Together they make a team. They are looking at Nov. 1 as the official opening date of Mount Pleasant’s first art center.
Having moved to Mount Pleasant in the early ’90s, Lorri Lee is quite familiar with what Mount Pleasant has to offer.
Her mother, Gail West, was the director of Career Development and Learning at Iowa Wesleyan College and good friends with Ann Klingensmith, the art director. Klingensmith is excited about the opening of an art center in Mount Pleasant and will be on the board of directors as the assistant director. Lorri Lee is the director, and Dawn Wiley the secretary. Other Board members are Don Jones and Sue Morrison.
In the future, Lorri Lee wants to have a potter’s wheel and kiln in the art center. But first, she needs to get local artists involved, the art center opened up, and a gallery provided for artists to display their art. She plans to have receptions for various artists in the coming months.
This is the American Dream. With hard work, dedication and creativity, good things happen. She is passionate about her goal and feels the art center will be a success. There may be some grants available for women entrepreneurs and other avenues of financial support.
At first her husband, Tim, was the naysayer about Lorri Lee’s idea for an art center. He viewed Mount Pleasant as an agricultural community with Old Threshers and Iowa Wesleyan the main draw. But once he talked to some of the local artists, he found out how many there were, and that they had to travel to other towns to display their art. He could see there was a market for art in Mount Pleasant. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
In the meantime, Lorri Lee is meeting with lawyers and CPA’s about getting the 501(3)c, non-profit entity set up, articles of incorporation written, and the word out to artists. All kinds of fine art will be considered, from paintings, to sculptures, drawings, glass, jewelry, and photography. Mount Pleasant will have an art center and artists a place to network with other artists and display their work.
An art center is coming to Mount Pleasant!
Curt Swarm is an author, columnist, metal sculpture and photographer from Mount Pleasant. you can reach him at (319) 217-0526, email at [email protected] or visit his website at www.empty-nest-words-photos-and-frames.com.