The Arts Council of Southeast Missouri was founded in 1961 by local metal-smith, Otto F. Dingeldein. We are proud to be the oldest Arts Council in the state, and even precede the Missouri Arts Council in date of origination by a few years. Our mission is to provide a forum for residents and artists of the Southeast Missouri region to explore, experience, and share in the diversity and excitement of the arts. We do this by providing approximately 150 educational programs and events to the area over the course of the calendar year.
Over the past 56 years, the Arts Council has undergone many name changes and moved to various locations. However, the mission has always stayed the same. In pursuit of fulfilling this mission, the Arts Council partnered with a local artists’ cooperative titled the Visual Arts Cooperative in 2003. The group is comprised of 50 local and regional artists. This cooperative is now a committee under the Arts Council as the Visual Arts Cooperative Committee.
Previously, the Arts Council had occupied the 32 N Main Street building. While there we had three different galleries: Jean Chapman Gallery, Gallery 100, and Lorimier Gallery.
In the summer of 2016, the Arts Council bought building, 16 North Spanish Street, from Red Letter. This site at 16 North Spanish Street is a beautiful location in Downtown Cape Girardeau, which features two spacious galleries. The Visual Arts Cooperative Committee inhabits one of the gallery spaces, whose artwork is changed at the beginning of each month, and remains on display through the end of the month.
The other gallery space is inhabited for the Arts Council’s various exhibitions and programs. This gallery feature exhibits from regional arts organizations to solo exhibitions. Established in 2003, First Friday with the Arts is an event initiated by local galleries and gallery-owners in and around Downtown Cape Girardeau participate in monthly event by opening for later hours (from 5pm-9pm), hosting Artist Receptions, as well as providing musicians, appetizers, and beverages to visitors of the event.
In addition to providing a venue for artists to gather and practice fellowship with one another, we occasionally have the ability to provide educational lectures for artists about accounting procedures and business practices. The facilities also provide a workshop room and three classrooms that are available to rent.
The Arts Council also hosts many annual shows and programs. Each spring, artwork from over 20 regional elementary schools are displayed in our gallery for the Children’s Arts Festival. Each year we also host multiple juried exhibits, in addition to an annual Members Exhibit. Local artists who might not normally have the chance to display their pieces are encouraged to participate. Each November we hold the largest craft fair in the region-the Christmas Arts and Crafts Extravaganza-which displays the handmade wares of 300 vendors in two different locations. In 2016, the craft boasted an attendance of 14,000, many of which came in from out of town to experience the fair. Vendors are required to be present for the duration of the show, providing a great opportunity for visitors to ask questions about the processes they go through to create their handmade pieces.
Educating the public about the arts is something that the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri believes is an important part of creating a sustainable artistic community. We strive to do this in many ways: 1) By hosting free monthly programs at our gallery, which feature demonstrations, lectures, and Q & A sessions with locals who are involved with the arts in various capacities, across many disciplines; 2) By partnering with local organizations who serve underprivileged and underserved youth to provide after-school, art educational programs (such as EPIC); 3) By keeping our newspaper and other media outlets informed of upcoming events and projects so that they may disperse the information to others in our area; and 4) By keeping our members and patrons informed about workshops and opportunities for continuing their education in the arts.
We are always striving to bring the artistic community and the public together through new experiences. If there are any ways you feel that we could improve upon the Arts Council’s implementation of the organization’s mission, please contact us! We would love to hear your suggestions.