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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell Area Arts Council launches new art collective


By Jon Sundby
Photo by Garrett Wang

For over a year, the offices of 927 Broad Street have stood vacant — its large windows revealing only blank walls and bare floors. Now, however, the mural work of local children hangs over these same windows, foreshadowing a change in the space. This past week, the Grinnell Area Arts Council announced that they had purchased the former “Pennysaver” offices and are intending to transform them into a series of studios for local artists.

“It’s just a few stops over from Saints Rest and the bike shop, you can see it with the big banners up now, before it was pretty unassuming. It was just another empty storefront in Grinnell, which is partly why we wanted to move over there,” said Erik Jarvis ’12, events and building coordinator for the Arts Council. “Right now downtown has a lot of vacancies, and it’s not good for the town in general, but it’s especially not good for a town that’s trying to build a vibrant arts community.”

The decision to purchase the space was first conceived after the artist residency GrinCity Collective decided to leave their space at a local farm and fulfil their mission remotely. The staff and board members of the Grinnell Area Arts Council realized that the collective’s physical absence heightened the need for places where Grinnellians could funnel their creative expression.

“One thing we looked at moving into the new year was what sort of gaps were left after GrinCity was gone, and the main one was just a space for artists to make things,” Jarvis said. “So we do have an open ceramics studio in the basement here, but other than that the [Grinnell Area Arts Council] is not really a place where people make art. It’s kinda where they come to look at the gallery or see a performance.”

There will be differences, between the maker’s spaces at 927 Broad Street and GrinCity collective. The new studios will not have the residency component that was so integral to GrinCity’s character, and this change lends itself to the space fulfilling a slightly different mission.

“We’re focusing on local and regional artists, so in the Grinnell area, and that’s the biggest difference between this project and what GrinCity was. They would import national and international artists, we’re trying to support the artists that are already here,” Jarvis said.

The Grinnell Area Arts Council wants the space to incorporate the community as a whole and welcomes local artists with a variety of different styles, techniques and forms. The new studios will be able to accommodate painters, sculptors, carpenters, welders and hopefully even musicians and videographers. While Jarvis doesn’t know who exactly will be renting out the studios yet, he hopes that the artists who decide to set up their work spaces there will represent a diverse cross-section of the town.

The studios are planned to be open sometime in May. And in line with the spirit of this community project, the Arts Council is inviting the public to view the space on March 6 at 7 p.m. and provide comments on its progress and form. Grinnell College students and faculty are encouraged to attend.

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