Non-profit art school coming to Staunton

Non-profit art school coming to Staunton

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What was once Bishop Motors on Main Street in Staunton is gradually being transformed into the Macoupin Arts Collective — informally called The MAC — a non-profit art school that will include a gallery, dark room, workshop, studios, and an apartment for visiting artists.

The school is the brainchild of Brandace Cloud of Wilsonville, a White City native who graduated from Staunton High School and later earned an associate’s degree in graphic design from Lewis and Clark Community College and a bachelor of arts degree in photography from Webster University, and later did post-graduate studies in ceramics at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Her day job is as a part-time pre-school art teacher at the Angela Cassens Early Childhood Development Center in Glen Carbon.

“It’s been my dream,” said Cloud. “My dad’s an electrician, and he kept telling me to do something that I love to do, and I found that art was what I love to do.” She said she tried graphic design, to tie in her love of art with something that could give her a career that would make money, but it wasn’t satisfying. That’s when she went on to get her degree in photography; there she got into teaching, especially children. “It’s been my lifelong dream to make an art school for our area. We don’t have anything like this in our area, and we never did. I always wanted to take art classes, but they were always so far away.”

The team also includes her cousin, Marcella Cloud of Sawyerville, who serves as the development coordinator/community liaison, and B. Cloud’s husband, Paul, a Gillespie native who serves as the social media manager/office manager. Others who help out include handyman Brian Markowitz and volunteers Hannah Miller and Annetta Veres, as well as two high school students from Mt. Olive.

Cloud plans to offer a variety of classes for all ages, ranging from one-off sessions to six-week workshops. In addition, she plans on offering open after-school sessions for students, such as from 3:30-4:30 p.m., so that they can come in and try out the various types of artistic activities, for $10 per hour. “We’re going to try to structure it some of the time, like maybe the first month will be clay month so the kids can do anything on the wheels or the slab roller or extruder or whatever, and we’ll be able to help them” she said. “I’m not going to have specific projects. I want them to explore techniques and materials.”

The gallery, which is the first room one sees upon coming in the front door and is where cars used to be displayed in the dealership, will be used to highlight artwork from visiting artists who teach courses at the school, as well as that of the Clouds’; shows will rotate out approximately every two months. Just off the gallery is a small office and a storage area for artwork for the gallery and materials for the classes.

In the back of the building is a large workshop, which includes separate areas for a photography dark room; a wood shop; a kiln room featuring two electric kilns (Cloud also has a wood kiln at her home in Wilsonville, which will be used for some of the multi-week classes); a clay studio featuring eight potters’ wheels, a slab roller and a clay extruder; a room for drawing, painting and fiber work; a multi-purpose area; and additional rentable studios.

Upstairs, what was an apartment is being converted into two studios, which will be rented out and have 24-hour access via a separate door, and a small apartment where visiting artists can stay instead of needing to rent a hotel room.

If all goes according to plan, the school will officially open in early to mid March, though the upstairs may take a little longer to be finished. In the meantime, drop-in classes will be offered periodically to help drum up interest; one was held Jan. 17 with six people attending the class itself and another 11 attending to tour the facility. At least 15 were expected to attend another on Jan. 24. “In my hopes, it was that I was going to pull some of my former students here, and I didn’t have any of my former students,” said Cloud. “It was all people from our community, and not, like, all cousins or relatives. It was a lot of people that we didn’t know.”

Cloud said she intends to keep classes affordable, with kids’ classes staying around $10 per hour and adults’ classes not much more than that. For six-week courses, with each session being 2.5 hours, the cost will be in the range of $90. There will be special classes for veterans, those with special needs, senior citizens and other groups.

Getting the building — which was built in the 1920s — ready has been an endeavor, and renovations are still ongoing. “It’s just been one little thing after another,” since she purchased the building in October, Cloud said, praising the team that is working to make the necessary repairs.

A beam in the gallery area had been cut into in order for an air conditioning vent to be installed. Because the building is actually two buildings sandwiched together, a leak had developed, which had led to a beam on the other side becoming rotten and needing replaced before any work could be done upstairs.

When the stairs leading to the second floor were replaced, the old wood was reused as kickboards on the new stairs to give them extra character and tie in the old and new. “At noon we found out those stairs were rotten. I came back the next morning at nine; they were already fixed and rebuilt,” she said.

Though the Macoupin Arts Collective does not yet have 501(c)(3) status, it is in the works. Once it is in place, all contributions will be tax-deductible. In the meantime, they are gladly accepting donations of any art materials or equipment. Volunteers are also welcome, both to help with getting the facility ready to open and to help teach classes once it is operational.

In the future, fundraisers will be held to help support the school — some of which will be macaroni and cheese-themed to go with the school’s nickname.

The MAC is located at 214 East Main Street, Staunton. For more information, call (618) 635-2015, email office@macart.org or visit macart.org or facebook.com/macoupinartcollective.