written by cindy kahler thomas | photos provided by midland palette club & hometown living
One of Midland’s best kept secrets is out! The Midland Palette Club and Art Center is open to the public with classes, meetings, and workshops for folks at any artistic level. “Our mission statement is to promote public awareness, participation, appreciation and access to the arts, and we are very mindful to keep this mission statement in mind when planning our events,” said Dee Kemp, President of the club. The club’s roots go all the way back to the 1920s, when a group of ladies would meet in each other’s homes, garages, and storerooms to paint together. On September 16, 1935, these “forward thinking ladies” decided to incorporate their nonprofit volunteer organization and called it the Palette Club.
Lucile Barron and her husband, Mr. R.M. Barron, saw the need for a permanent meeting place and gifted the land for the original building. The members raised money and soon built themselves “a little house” to paint in. As the downtown area grew around their building, it became a prized piece of land desired by a local bank. The bank agreed to build them an art center on another location in trade, and the deal was struck.
Mr. R.M. Barron, husband of Lucile Barron who was a charter member, donated the lot for the original building. The original members raised the money for the build. This is a painting done by G.A. Scofield who was also a member of the Palette Club.
This is the current Palette Club building when it was under construction. A bank wanted the original location and in exchange, they agreed to purchase the land and build the current facility located 907 West Wadley Ave in 1982.
Fast forward to now, and the nonprofit art center is still thriving with an estimated 80+ members, and classes at least once a week. “We have started what we call our Discovery Classes, and they are taught by some of the members of the Palette Club. We provide a kit with each class that has everything you need, and it is waiting there for you when you take the class. All you have to do is show up. We provide instruction, and the class usually lasts about two hours. At the end of the evening, they go home with finished product and the kit,” Dee explained. That way if you want to continue with other art in that medium, you have the knowledge and the kit. Those classes range from $45 up to $125 depending on what is in the kit.
Many of the members didn’t start out to be artists, but the club opened up their artistic sensibilities and they are working artists now.
“We cover a lot of different ways to do art in our Discovery Classes. We do poured acrylics, urban stitching, drawing, colored pencils, ink wash, watercolor 101, Christmas cards, Texas cards, modern lettering, and even journaling classes. We try to be innovative with our classes and try to give classes that people will be interested in taking. We have quite a variety,” Dee said with a smile, “Our members are smart and innovative, and they have a vision. They just keep looking in the future for what the Palette Club can do.” Some of the other classes offered are acrylic painting, oil painting, pastels, 3D printing and cold wax and oil, jewelry, and fused glass.
Gilbert Rodriguez blowing through a straw to move the paint around as an example of a poured acrylic painting.
“We also offer more advanced classes and bring in award winning and nationally known artists for workshops lasting three to five days,” Dee said. “Laurie Goldstein Warren, Mike Mahon out of Santa Fe, and Ken Hosmer are examples of these types of artists. Other workshops are taught by out of town artists that are award winning but may not be nationally known. We are bringing in Nathalie Kelly from Snyder in the spring that will be teaching a poured watercolor class.” The artists often do a free demonstration at the monthly meetings and then do the workshop in the next few days. Because of grants that Dee was able to procure, the workshop area is set up with a video camera that transfer the images of the instructor onto to large TVs so that no matter where you are sitting, you have a clear view of the skill that the instructor is teaching.
Nationally known award-winning artist, Laurie Goldstein-Warren doing a demo, and 5-day workshop for the club.
Members also meet on Tuesday mornings at the building to paint together. They display and sell their art at Trunk Shows, sales in their parking lot, other art organizations events and at the Midland Shared Spaces, where they rotate art quarterly. They partner with other nonprofits too like the Aphasia Center and Casa de Amigos Senior Services.
Many of the members didn’t start out to be artists, but the club opened up their artistic sensibilities and they are working artists now. “My sister was coming to town, and her art instructor suggested that she take a class from someone different, so I signed her up. Then I thought, ‘She isn’t going to know anybody,’ so I signed up too.” Dee was surprised that she didn’t need to bring anything. “Once I got introduced, I came out with paintings that I was blown away by. Then I started taking the workshops, all kinds, anything I could do to get better,” she said with passion.
Our Discovery Classes cover poured acrylics, urban stitching, drawing, colored pencils, ink wash, watercolor 101, Christmas cards, Texas cards, modern lettering, and even journaling classes.
“We want to let people know they can do it. My degree is actually in petroleum engineering, so when I started to do art it was kind of hard using the other side of the brain, and now I really enjoy it. I hear people say all the time that all I can draw is a stick figure. I tell them, ‘That is what I used to say. I was a stick figure girl, but now I know about the lines and curves. There is a creative side to you, and you can do it too.’ Art is, I don’t want to say an escape, but it is a great way to relax honestly. Obviously, it is work, but if you enjoy it; it isn’t really work,” Dee shared.
It is also a community. For Rhodema Cargill, it was a way to meet people, and she too discovered a hidden artist in her soul. She moved to Midland because of her husband’s job, became an empty nester and had to deal with the death of her father at the same time. “Those three things were a triple whammy, and I was not a very happy person. Art was therapy for me, and it has given me a relief,” she explained. She met some members at her church that invited her to the Palette Club. “It was probably the key to helping me feel like a part of the community. I have found a group of friends. I feel like Midland is home now.”
I found the Palette Club to be very supportive of everybody no matter what their art level. All different artists from beginners to those more advanced just lifting everybody up.
“I didn’t know I was an artist, and I really enjoy the classes and workshops. Every class and workshop have a place for beginners up to people that are advanced. I got involved and discovered that I was an artist. I started with colored pencil, then I started watercolor and now I am predominately an oil painter and a pastel-artist. Now, it is my full-time job. I work at it about 30 hours a week. I have some children’s books in my head that I want to write and illustrate. I have been learning more and more. I have confidence, so I know I can do it,” she said confidently, “I found the Palette Club to be very supportive of everybody no matter what their art level. All different artists from beginners to those more advanced just lifting everybody up. Their mission statement is to encourage people in the arts and introduce people to the arts. They have gone into juvenile detention centers and worked with troubled youth. They have worked with foster children and elder care. Art is therapeutic. I sing the Palette Club’s praises. They are sweet people. It is a family. It isn’t just a club, it is a community,” Rhodema said with pride. †