Art center to celebrate 50 years

Published 10:26 am Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Austin Area Art Center at Oak Park Mall will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2009.

As a part of the celebration, the art center would like to extend an invitation to area artists and supporters of the arts to become members.

In 1959, Doris White, Thelma Bowlby, Mary Johnson and Sally Groh organized the Austin Art Group, which met in one another’s homes. Immediately after forming, they were invited to exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair as an art club. By October 1959 the first constitution and by-laws were adopted “to promote the practice and interest in the creative arts among the people of Austin, Mower County and the surrounding area, and the State of Minnesota.”

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Twenty-five years after forming, the basement of the Sterling State Bank in the Sterling Shopping Center became home for the club until 1994 when the Austin Area Art Center opened at Oak Park Mall.

Historically, the Austin Area Art Center has promoted the arts through exhibits on the courthouse lawn, management of the Mower County Fair Fine Arts exhibits, the hobby show and later the wildlife shows in the National Guard Armory, through the development of the Art Cart at the hospital and its own gallery exhibits.

In addition, area artists have offered a variety of adult and children’s classes for reasonable prices.

Membership is available to people interested in giving to the arts through monetary or volunteer support and active participation. It also carries with it benefits through the center such as exhibition space, a variety of educational components to monthly member meetings, camaraderie with others who have similar interests, members’ only workshops and a monthly newsletter that lists a number of exhibits in area galleries and opportunities from a variety of granting organizations and educational facilities.

Youth memberships are available to students under age 20 for $20 per year; Primary Level memberships are $35 per year; Advocate Level memberships are $75; and Sponsor Level memberships are $250.

The deadline is Dec. 1 in the 50th anniversary edition Member Directory. Memberships will continue to be taken throughout the year, and donations are always welcome.

For more information, call Austin Area Art Center at 433-8451 or e-mail

Regular business hours are noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

Funding is partially provided by the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council.