Patrons preserve by learning the art of running a store

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A band of enthusiastic art workers at Pineapple Art Center and Supplies is providing labor-force and materials to build up the art community in downtown Duluth. The store was founded by a diverse group with a passion for art and a desire to keep it downtown.

The center began when the downtown art supply store Bohemia Arts closed. At first, a group of Bohemia's customers volunteered at that store, in an attempt to save the financially troubled art supplier. When this effort was not enough, they formed a brand new organization from the ashes (and the remaining stock) of the former store.

This art association pooled its money to buy Bohemia's remaining supplies and works. These were used in the creation of Pineapple Art.

Originally, they planned for the store to be nonprofit. Eventually, they settled on a Subchapter S Corporation status, with most of the many shareholders working at the store, alongside a company of volunteers. Although the store is technically for-profit, most revenue goes right back into improving the store. These efforts have allowed downtown Duluth to continue to have an art supply store.

"The downtown area is moving toward a lot of art, not just the visual arts but art in general, and I feel that an art supply store is needed here. I think it is really neat that we are group-owned. ... sort of a collective," said shareholder Lucy Meade.

The store is not just about art supply-side economics. The store also creates a demand for these items by providing studio space, art classes, and a place for local artists to sell their works.

Meade explained that part of the store's mission is to provide these items and services at a reasonable price.

They currently offer a number of classes, with plans for more in the future.

John Hinkel teaches linoleum block carving-printing and traditional bookbinding.

Todd Olson teaches origami to those willing to join his fold. This class is given by appointment and group rates are available.

Those interested in painting their own "happy little clouds" can enroll in the oil painting class taught by Dale Lucas.

Many other classes are taught on a regular, semi-regular, or even a special one-time-only basis. One such class event involved a visit from a Chinese brush painter. Meade reflected that people were very enthusiastic about this rare event.

Classes are geared for the young at heart and those actually young. Many children's classes are also taught.

Just in time for Halloween, the studio offers a mask-making class.

On December 7 this year, kids can learn to make cards and beaded gifts, for a Christmas that won't live in infamy.

In November, kids can learn to work with clay and to paint with acrylics.

In the past, parents and children have really enjoyed children's art parties. These can be given for birthdays and other occasions. During the party, a group of children gets to work on art projects and take them home to keep. Some past party projects have included making Yodas and "Star Wars" ships.

Besides renting studio space at individual and group rates, once a week everyone is invited to work on projects, in the studio, free of charge. Starting at 11:00 Sunday morning, Lucy Meade hosts what she calls "Art Church." During these sessions the "congregation" can bring any art project they want to work on, in a relaxed group setting. Those attending can show their work to the group and get feedback.

The store also practices the art of supporting the local community. This includes helping those with various disabilities. They have sponsored events with groups such as the Arrowhead Artists With Disabilities (AAWD) and United Day Activity Center (UDAC). This includes making the studio available free of charge to groups such as AAWD. Volunteers from UDAC have been coming to the studio about once a week.

Shareholder John Hinkel points out that the store is also of benefit to the local student community.

"We also take volunteers and we teach them about the retail trade and so forth," he explained.

The studio has many other projects and plans in the works. Recently, they have started hosting poetry readings. They have also started offering custom canvas stretching. This allows the creation of paintings of unique shapes and sizes.

One of their long-term plans is to build a darkroom.

Like the future users of this darkroom, we will have to wait to see how things develop at Pineapple Art.

For more information contact: (218) 722-2919

124 W 1st St.

Duluth, MN, United States 55802