BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The view outside the window at 827 Avenue H is remarkable. An historic railroad depot and a panoramic view of the largest river in the country with the rising Illinois bluffs as a back drop.
But looking inside the building may be just as eye-catching. Especially if owner Rebecca Bowker and local artist Ian Hauck realize their dreams.
The two have been transforming the first floor of the building, owned by Bowker, into a pad, if you will, for local artists to work, and possibly, peddle their wares, called Artist Trax.
A step inside the building and it feels like a space that would bring the creative energies from anyone sitting down to an easel. Sections of raw brick walls from original construction and original polished wooden support beams bring originality to the room, but the “dollhouse” porch in the rear of the room conjures up a sense of youth and formality that should also serve to inspire creativity.
The spaces are all named for historical significance such as the Burlington Northern, The Santa Fe and The Fort carrying Fort Madison themes. The spaces range from 60 square feet to 150 square feet. The also have what they call Box Car and The Depot spaces in the back.
‘We wanted this to be a place where people could come 24/7 to work on their art,” Bowker said. “Our hope is to provide them a space to create art and then have gallery days where they can sell their work.”
Hauck and Bowker are a couple with Hauck being the artist. He works in airbrush on metal and has some mad skills in pen and pencil drawings. Although he seems to be a bit infatuated with the skulls and brimstone type of art, he said he is branching out.
“I’m really trying to hone my skills on the air brushing,” Hauck said. ” It’s kind of self taught. I didn’t go to school for it or anything, so the more I do the better I get.”
Hauck also said the summer will present other opportunities.
“In the spring and summer we have the little park on the west side and people could go outside and work there, too. So we have a lot of different ideas,” he said.
Artists would be charged anywhere from $50 to $125 for the working spaces per month and, again, could come anytime 24/7 to do their work because you never know when the urge will hit.
Bowker said the gallery days would be a chance for the artists to sell their work. Contracts would give them 75% of the proceeds of any sale with 25% going to the business who would then share some of the profits with the Fort Madison Area Artist Association.
“This really started with his love of art,” Bowker said. “He’s really, really talented.”
The two are also planning a grand opening on February 24 and are also trying to work an art walk into the business plan, of course with wine and snacks.
“There are lots of places in Fort Madison that work in art,” Bowker said. “You have FMAAA, frame shops, photography studios and we could work with all of those places.”
Hauck said the two are hoping to have artists in place before the grand opening so there is work to be showcased.
“We want people to know that we are ready to work with artists right away,” Bowker said.
So sharpen your charcoal, scrape your pencils to a point, mix your pastels and find your pace at Bowker and Hauck’s place. Contact Rebecca at 319-371-7753, Ian at 319-669-6239 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.