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The Scarlet & Black

Portraits in progress: Arts Council hosts open studio

By Laura Dripps

Grinnell residents looking for a creative outlet in the midst of winter weather are in luck. The Grinnell Area Arts Council (GAAC) is hosting an open portrait studio with artists Rachel Buse, Jon Pearson and Cat Rocketship each Sunday during the month of February from 1 to 4 p.m.

Visitors to the studio, located at the Grinnell Arts Center at 926 Broad Street, can sit for a portrait by one of the artists or try their hand at drawing the other attendees. The event is open to everyone, including students.

“We wanted to do something that was a little bit different than just a bunch of work on the walls,” Pearson said. “The idea being that we were going to be here, connecting with the community and making it more of a collaborative effort.”

Artists display all works completed during the studio sessions, creating an evolving portrait show in the Arts Center Gallery. On the last Sunday of the month, Feb. 24, the entire collection of portraits produced over the month will be unveiled in a final reception. All the pieces, which typically feature charcoal and oil pastel materials, will be available for sale at $5, first-come, first-served.

The impetus for the show came from Buse, Pearson and Rocketship, who are all currently in residence at Grin City Collective, an Arts Council Program that sponsors a number of artists to live and work on a farm outside of Grinnell, working on personal projects as well as various community outreach activities.

“I was very interested in us having a show that was out of the ordinary for this space,” said GAAC Arts & Residency Director Molly Rideout ’10. “I wanted to make the creative process more transparent to the Grinnell Community so they can see a studio in its insanity and messiness… [Buse, Pearson and Rocketship] came up with this idea of doing a portrait studio, which was fantastic because portraits are one of the most accessible art forms.”

Community engagement is a key objective of the studio sessions. So far, the artists have seen a diverse array of participants attend the studio, including residents of a nearby nursing home, parents of children attending art classes in the gallery basement, and Grinnell College students.

Katie In ’13 sat for a portrait after hearing about the event on Facebook and through friends connected to the Arts Council. She appreciated the relaxed environment of the studio.

“It was nice that the woman drawing my portrait didn’t ask us to stay still; she said that we could move around,” In said. “Everyone should go get your portrait drawn.”

Additional information about the show, as well as photos of the art, can be viewed online at

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