In October of 1958, a group of Winterset citizens were having a discussion around the coffee bar in Good’s Bakery on the west side of the square. The subject was an evening painting class being held in South Ward by instructor Don Thomas. Thoughts were focusing on the idea that having a permanent place to meet, which would allow people to learn, work and discuss art would be a benefit to all. Thus, was the beginning of what today is the Winterset Art Center. In November in rooms above the Madisonian’s Court Avenue location the first general meeting was held. The organizers: Don Thomas, June Kaser, Dorothy Good, Ethel Lee Osborn, Yvonne Meyer, Elton King, Jennie Thrift, Mary Winjum, Mayme Jones and the Reverend Steinmetz formed the first board of directors with June as chair. The following year found the meetings moved to the basement of the K&K Laundromat at 53 Jefferson, and by 1961 membership was up to fifty-six.
1961 was the year that Dorothy Good and June Kaser looked at an old house in rather sorry condition on South First Street. One of the oldest structures in Winterset, the old home had a charm and a history of being linked with the Underground Railway aiding runaway slaves. The 1854 building didn’t bring enough bids to sell at auction, and by negotiations with the attorney for the estate, a deal was reached. Sixty days were given to raise the $1500 down payment and five years to raise the balance. The property was purchased and the Art Center had a home. Over the following years much effort was put forth by the members to renovate the building and to pay off the mortgage through fund raising efforts of every description. A building was added behind the home to be used for pottery classes, the old barn was also converted into a classroom and eventually the two outbuildings were connected as they are today.
Additionally, the Winterset Art Center now hosts four art competitions over the course of the year as well as numerous social events.
The year 2011 closed with membership at over 180 and increased visibility via a new Internet presence. Two new competitions were launched this year, New Dimensions and Small Treasures. We had good turnouts for our Pancake Day, Spaghetti Supper, Chili Dinner and Potato Day with all participants enjoying fine food and a great social experience. The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs has initiated an inter-county regional coalition project which could provide cooperative efforts increased exposure for all grassroots cultural organizations.