Wickenburg Art Club – 50 Year Anniversary
The Wickenburg Art Club was formally organized as the Wickenburg Art and Craft Group on November 23, 1964 with 20 members. Its primary objectives have been to stimulate and encourage creative works in the arts, to provide educational opportunities for members to develop further in artistic skills and appreciation, and to promote and enrich community-wide awareness of local art talent and activities.
When first organized, the club dues were $1.00 membership, and 50 cents per month. By 1975, dues had gone all the way up to $3.00 per year, and rose again to $5.00 per year in 1985. Meetings were held in Smoke Eaters Hall, and various places after that, locations unknown to us today. Sometimes meetings were held in various members’ homes. In the 1990’s, the banquet hall of the Community Center was used, with workshops being held in a small building in Coffinger Park, free of charge for cleaning and painting the building. Curtains were made, and tables and chairs added.
WAC has had a long association with Wickenburg’s Gold Rush Days, which began when for the 1961 event Chuck Brown was asked to chair an art show held in the parking lot of what is now Ben’s Saddlery on Tegner Street. In 1964 the Gold Rush Art Show was held on the American Legion lawn with 100 paintings exhibited. Earl Huff, who was president of the club in 1968, received permission from Dorothy Coons of the Town of Wickenburg for the club to hold the Artisans Fair on the library grounds. Cost for a booth was $25 for 3 days. The Artisans’ Fair at Wickenburg’s Gold Rush Days has been the main source of funds for the club ever since. Earl Huff was an acrylics artist, and his wife Betty was recently interviewed by member Lynn Tagge (the interview appeared in the April Artifacts). Betty made baskets. She and Earl have art in our Ring of Honor (see description below) display in the club.
In the 1970’s, membership had dropped drastically, but the club was saved when Walter and Bonnie Johnson, gallery owners, opened their home for meetings. In 1973 there were 33 members, and assets of $103.07. Now we have more than 200 members. An Annual Art Festival was organized in 1981, held at the Community Center for several years. Classes were given around this time by members who were proficient in a certain phase of art. Fees were $0.50, $1.00 or $2.00 to be paid to the club.
In November, 1983, WAC hosted the Friends of Music concert by a famous pianist, and at least once again with another musical artist. Thus began our association with them, where we now display art at almost every free concert.
We have long had a close relationship with the Town of Wickenburg, and it has been said that all of Wickenburg is our gallery, as we display currently in seven venues and will soon add six more Town buildings. We have an ongoing relationship with the Desert Caballeros Western Museum, too. In the early days of the Museum, WAC not only exhibited our artworks there, but also held fundraisers for the Museum from time to time. Now, this partnership has grown into the West of Center event, where WAC displays artwork by our members in the DCWM Cultural Crossroads Learning Center during the summer.
The first Art Club logo was selected in 1988, created by Don Linn, still an active member. It consisted of a horseshoe enclosing Vulture Peak. The name Artifacts for our newsletter was adopted in 1990 submitted by June Jennerjahn, no longer a member. Our present logo of an artist’s palette flanked by a Stetson hat and cowboy boots was a joint creation of several members in 2002.
In 1988 was the first History Day art show by the club, and in 1992 Art Walks were held. The hard work of our many volunteers has benefited the club, allowing us to grow and develop. Also we have made donations to many community organizations.
2001 brought the purchase of our present property, the building at 188 South Tegner Street under the leadership of Helen Jenson, Louise Carty and Sharon Pearson. It was a former church, and cost $65,500. Many improvements have been made since then. Work days were held, with members showing up with scrub brushes and mops, hammers and nails. Just this past year, under the presidency of Marian Koegele, the building was repainted, with the sign “Wickenburg Art Center” alongside our logo, previously painted by Tamara Thomas. The inside walls were painted, and the office and library updated. Heat and electric cooling unit additions and other remodeling along the way have resulted in a beautiful building. New flagstone walk and patio, with iron grillwork also enhanced the appearance. The hard work and effort of the club, and prudent handling of our funds enabled us to purchase the building and through the income from the Gold Rush Days Artisans’ Fair, we are able to keep the dues low and our programs intact.
The extra space of a large meeting room has enabled the club to sponsor workshops by professional artists. The meetings total at least 50 people during the winter months, and a demonstration by the workshop artist follows the meeting. Open studio on Tuesdays and Saturdays are held, and a drawing group, clay group (with up to date equipment), besides the Artist at Work shows and Fine Arts Festivals are held. Recently the Ring of Honor display was added to the upper part of the main gallery, consisting of long-time members’ works, promoted by Gallery Chair Pam Morris-Johnson. A Charter member, Wanda Chrzanowski, recently visited a board meeting and brought a painting for display. In 2005 Dave Hill planned the first plein air outing, and in 2013 Joan McDermott began field trip outings to various art events. A Youth Art Group is in full swing, and the club offers a scholarship to a high school student who is pursuing further art education.
An example of WAC’s commitment to community involved members donating art pieces to Yarnell, Arizona, residents who had lost their homes in the dreadful fire, and are rebuilding. This “Make a House a Home” project was initiated by JoAnn Simpson. More than 90 pieces of art were gratefully received by the victims.
Through efforts of the many volunteers in the membership, WAC has been able to enrich the cultural life of Wickenburg by donating to arts programs in the schools, scholarships, and town organizations. These include the town of Wickenburg, Desert Caballeros Museum, Chamber of Commerce, Sheriff’s Posse, Library, Friends of Music, Police Department and Community Action Programs.
All who visit the Wickenburg Art Club are delighted with our accomplishments, and we are grateful to the early members who had the vision to establish our club.
from Jeanine Brown, Historian