The Debut of “The Stew”
By Michael McAllister
The wet weather did not cooperate with the opening party at Grinnell’s Stew Art Studios, 927 Broad Street, Friday evening, April 28, but inside the newly revamped building spirits were not dampened in the least.
Stew Art Studios—nicknamed “The Stew”—is an innovative downtown enterprise designed to provide space, materials, equipment, and support to creative people from the immediate area. That creativity can be proven or potential, and it can approach just about any form of invention: visual arts, music, writing, carpentry, quilting, crafting, and the list goes on.
If someone needs space, The Stew is the place.
In addition to a work area, The Stew offers creators interaction with like-minded individuals, involvement with the community, and opportunities for exposure. For the public, artisan bazaars, creative classes, and pop-up gallery shows are a few of the events either scheduled or in the works.
The front section of the building can also be a meeting area for community groups.
Tom Lacina, pictured above on the left, is the driving force behind the project, and Craig Cooper, right, of Cooper Real Estate and Bikes to You, is the building owner. The Grinnell Arts Council has leased the building. Its windows on Broad Street offer significant display opportunities, and its depth and room arrangements can accommodate a variety of projects.
The official name of the building is Stew Art Studios, a reference to the Stewart Public Library, the building that now houses the Grinnell Area Arts Center and the Stewart Gallery within the center. The word stew also suggests several connotations that relate to the mission of the project—think warmth, comingling, diversity, and something that reaches perfection after a period of development.
At the Friday night event, visitors shared a potluck meal and toured the building. Arts Center staff Katie In and Erik Jarvis, above left, fulfilled the roles of hosts, and the members of Grinnell’s Mojo Machine, above right, did their best to, in the words of David Letterman, “blow the roof off the place.”
Along with original material, notable selections by Mojo Machine included inspired covers of “Honky Tonk Woman” and “Powderfinger.” Incidentally, if you have ever wondered whether the lyrics of “Pinball Wizard” can fit the melody of “Folsom Prison Blues”—well, they can.
One example of the building’s use comes from Sandy Moffett, Grinnell College Professor Emeritus of Theater and Dance. Long a conservationist and advocate of prairie restoration, Professor Moffett develops selected projects, some of which are pictured above, in one room.
Discussing the building’s potential, Tom Lacina envisions anyone whose dwelling does not present extra project space as a candidate for a short-term or long-term room at 927 Broad. Some insurance and safety details need to be worked out, and sections of the building still need some attention, but in general The Stew is simmering away.
Indeed, The Stew has scheduled an artisan bazaar for May 19 and 20, July 7 and 8, and September 23.
In addition, supporters have established classes for Tuesday, May 16 (Coding Embroidery, with Ursula Wolz and Sam Rebelsky, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.); Saturday, June 10 (Skilsaw, with Rich Dana, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.); and Sunday, August 27 (Songwriting, with Betty Moffett and Erik Jarvis, from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m). The diverse content of these three sessions attests to the range of creativity that The Stew can accommodate.
No doubt additional offerings will become available as the project and the building develop.
Of course, any endeavor like Stew Art Studios needs community support to succeed. Friday night’s event proved that such support is available in Grinnell, both in terms of attendees and contributors.
At a time when retail enterprises search for stability in the digital age, at a time when downtowns seek a reaffirmed presence amid a town’s expansion, endeavors like The Stew offer innovative alternatives to not only utilize existing structures efficiently but also to promote community opportunities and enrichment.
For more information or to make use of The Stew, call 641-236-3203 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Creativity takes courage,” said the painter Henri Matisse. True. But there are some practical considerations a well: materials, equipment, an occasional Atta boy! or You go, girl! and, of course, space.
Now Grinnellians can bring a bit of courage to 927 Broad Street and see what bubbles up at The Stew.