The Littleton Fine Arts Guild is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month with exhibits and events at the historic Depot Art Center.
The guild formed in 1962 as a place for community members to meet weekly and learn to paint. Membership in the guild is now open to all Littleton adults, pending approval of artwork by a panel of current members.
“I believe (the anniversary) is a great opportunity for everyone to look deeper, how local businesses like our Art Depot Gallery operate for the good of all,” says Lena Owens, a guild member and a Russian immigrant who moved to Colorado in 2002.
The depot dates to 1888, when it was operated by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. In 1965, Edward Bemis saved the depot from the wrecking ball, and the city of Littleton acquired the building.
In 1977 the Friends of the Library/Museum and the Littleton Fine Arts Guild teamed up to restore the depot. They raised funds for a project to preserve the structure’s authenticity and convert it into an art center. Soon after, the Fine Arts Guild moved in; the guild pays a small monthly fee, said member Pat Dall.
Dall says being a member of the guild offers artists several benefits, including regular painting sessions with well-known artists.
There are about 40 active guild members, says Dall, and a few of the guild’s original members are still active.
Members of the Fine Arts Guild say having their own space makes this guild unique. Instead of finding other galleries to host their pieces, members have a good shot at showing their art in the Depot Art Gallery.
“I think the history of the building is very fascinating,” says Rita Bentley, a member who joined in the late ‘70s. “Some art guilds don’t have a place to meet. This place is special.” Bentley says meeting at the depot makes the guild more cohesive than others she has belonged to.
“Being a part of the guild is a way to network and learn where other shows are,” says Judy Deist, a guild member and photographer. “I think we’re special because we are a co-op gallery. We each have to sit here one day a month and man the post.”
Owens agrees, saying, “It is not a competitive group, but cooperative. We are learning together, helping each other by taking turns to run the gallery.”
The depot’s exterior is painted bright red with green trim and bears the small Santa Fe railroad logo. Inside the building, the walls are lined with featured artwork created by guild artists. Bins of original artwork at discount prices are available for browsing. The gift shop, also in the depot building, sells jewelry made by guild artists.
All featured artwork is created by guild members and juried by a third party. “It depends on the quality of the work and our wall space,” says Dall.
Artists use the guild to network with other artists and as a jumping-off point for promoting their artwork in other areas of the community.
“This is local. It’s a good place to be,” says Bentley.
Beside the depot sits an 1898 caboose from the Colorado & Southern line that is used to display children’s artwork.
“I have a theory that happy people tend to create, to produce, to make this world better. And, yes, the art guild is a happy place for sure,” says Owens.
The Depot Art Center
Address: 2069 W. Powers Ave.
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.