Eighteen years ago the Collegiate United Methodist Church bought a parking lot. Attached to the parking lot was a building the church didn’t have much use for.
At the same time, a small group of local artists, confined by their limited access to the community arts center, were searching for their own studio space.
Lee Anne Willson, professor emerita of astronomy at Iowa State, is one of the founding members of Creative Artists’ Studios of Ames (CASA) who was in search all those years ago for her own workspace.
“We talked to the church, and they said they were only renting to non-profits,” Willson said. “So we said okay — we’ll turn it into a non-profit.”
CASA hosted the Ames Community Arts Council’s Monthly Gathering of Artists on Tuesday, showcasing the work and studios of local artists. CASA is currently home to more than 30 artists with mediums ranging from encaustics to digital art. The studio provides free parking, gallery space, a kitchen area, and 24/7 access to your own studio with a paid membership.
The monthly gatherings are free events designed to draw in all kinds of creators in the community to share their mediums, knowledge, inspirations and frustrations. Former Iowa State student Caroline Freese said CASA has become an important resource for Iowa State students of the arts.
“Students will sign up for a summer membership when they can’t access the ceramics studio on campus.” Freese said. “It’s [CASA] an affordable workspace, and Ames has housing that is affordable.”
Investing in an out-of-home studio can be an expensive and not always financially feasible move in one’s career. CASA seeks to meet the needs and price requirements of local artists by providing private and shared workspace at a low cost. CASA also works to provide artists with the resources to control their own creative process.
Ruben Ruiz, a CASA member for five years now, has been working with clay for more than 15 years. Ruiz showcased a kiln opening with over 20 pieces at Tuesday’s event. As Ruiz carefully pulled out his intricately glazed pieces, he explained some of the finer details of his craft.
“See, this one is ruined,” Ruiz said. “The glaze blistered over.”
Onlookers peered closely, unable to recognize the defect. Despite Ruiz’s expertise, it was not until he moved to Iowa that he learned how to fire his own pieces in a kiln.
“In Orange County I was in a studio run by the city,” Ruiz said. “They didn’t allow you to do your own firing. Over here [CASA], they helped to teach me how to fire and make my own glazes. Now it feels like my work is really my work.”
Greg Lamont, pottery lead at CASA and Iowa State Workspace pottery instructor, said CASA works to expand the resources available to an artist.
“That’s why we exist," Lamont said. "At some point you want more control over the process. You want to increase your knowledge, have access to better materials, have more consistent products, and that’s where we come in.”
CASA encourages artists to reach out and take advantage of its gallery space. For more information about memberships and gallery space call (515) 292-3448 or visit www.creativeartists.org.