Thursday, February 2, 2023

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Iowa Artist

Ankeny Art Center


Curator Claire Hays poses with her own artwork.

After spending hours, weeks and months perfecting colors, shadows and shapes, artists are eager to share their creations. Locally, artists look to galleries, libraries, coffee shops and stores to display or sell their art. The Des Moines Arts Center displays top artists, yet it’s a nearly unattainable venue for local artists. Mainframe Studios is a great alternative. Yet, there’s one more place for art, located in the suburbs: the Ankeny Art Center. 

The Ankeny Art Center is a nonprofit organization, started by Ankeny teachers in 1981. Formerly called the Ankeny Friends of the Arts, they expanded in 2002 into a small brick building at 1520 S.W. Ordnance Road. It includes a small and large gallery, 2D classroom and rooms for pottery, glazing and kilns — plus, offers a variety of art classes. 

The Ankeny Art Center is free to the public. A diverse selection of shows and artwork is displayed throughout the year and typically includes member artwork. A kindergarten through 12th-grade student show from now until April features three school districts: Bondurant-Farrar, North Polk and Ankeny. 

Executive Director Hilary Kodatt stands in front of paintings by local artist Gary Huffman.

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Liz Huether is an art teacher at North Polk High School. She and other North Polk art teachers select about 100 pieces of artwork from each of the five schools. She said the art show gives students confidence and a sense of community.

“The students like to share what they’re doing. When kids stand by their artwork during the show, they have a great sense of pride.”
Ankeny Art Center Executive Director Hilary Kodatt said member artists’ work varies, and shows are exhibited for eight weeks. Some artists are hobbyists while others simply want to contribute to art. After displaying their work in Ankeny, several artists are now located at Mainframe Studios, selling and creating artwork.

“Some artists use this as a springboard,” Kodatt said. “It’s a collaborative environment, and they feel comfortable coming to us with their first dive in art.” 

Art by Victoria Mock Pollock

Art is juried each December. Claire Hays, curator and head of the gallery, examines artists’ work.

“Most are local artists with local ties,” Kodatt said. “It’s a family-friendly place, so the one requirement is no nudity. We try to be as inclusive as possible.”

The art center leans toward curating budding local artists.

“We like to showcase emerging artists. Often, they’ve never displayed their art. We can help them structure for their future and learn what it is like to be in a gallery.”

Select artwork is for sale; the center receives a small percentage. At one of the school shows last year, a woman asked to purchase one of the students’ works.

Kodatt said the Ankeny Art Center is a diverse place to showcase talents.

“Art is crucial to the quality of life. To express yourself in an environment means you can be a whole person. We welcome anyone who appreciates art.” ♦

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