Nearly 50 years ago, the Mississippi Valley Art Guild was formed by a group of local artists to support and promote the arts in the region.
Interest in the nonprofit organization waned over the past decades the group became dormant until five years ago, when several local artists took notice that Chester High School no longer offered art classes for their students. Many of them remembered the influence Pauline Paetzhold had on their lives when she taught at Chester.
The Guild decided to try to fill the gap left by the school dropping the program. They wanted to offer support, advice, training, and fellowship for artists of all ages, in all mediums and regardless of their abilities.
One of the officers of the Guild, Barbara McCormick said they wanted to encourage artistic expression, especially to the community's young people. The problem was that they did not have a suitable place for programs and classes to be held. After looking at several places around town, they have finally found a new home at 987 State St., next door to the Gazebo in midtown. McCormick said the new venue offers a place for lessons, meetings, and a gallery/gift shop.
Member Melanie Barker, who is an art instructor at Chester Mental Health Center and an accomplished artist, recently joined and is excited for the direction the Guild is headed. She said they are slowly setting up schedules to provide workshops for adults, teenagers, and children.
The Guild uses its resources to inform the public about art and artists associated with the Guild. They participate in several art shows and have a relationship with other art guilds in Southern Illinois.
Membership in the Guild is $24 a year, which ensures that each member can benefit by being able to claim membership on their resume, if so desired.
The goal is offer a place where artists can display and sell their work. No commission is charged on art that is sold and they encourage members to make their expertise known to the public through future workshops which will be offered.
The Guild hopes to help attract tourism and they plan to be ready for the upcoming summer season when the riverboats begin stopping in Chester.
If anyone is interested they are welcome to attend their next monthly meeting, which is held on the last Monday of the month at 6 p.m. at their new location. For more information, call (515) 344-2448 or (618) 826-4962.
They can also be found on Facebook at Mississippi Valley Art Guild Forum.