Where the art is

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 14, 2005

M & M Realty owner Debbie Dickens may never have picked up a paintbrush, but she makes it her business to surround herself with oils, watercolors and pastels every day.

Last fall, Dickens opened the doors of her business located at 703 Park Avenue to members of the Ironton Artists Association, giving them a permanent place to display their artwork. Many of the pieces are for sale and all proceeds go directly to the artist.

So, why did Dickens extend the invitation?

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"Because there's nothing like this in Ironton," she said. "We have such a huge facility here and we don't actually need all the room. We're open from 9 (a.m.) to 5 (p.m.) anyway, so it doesn't really interfere with what we do."

People are welcome to come in during business hours to view the 27 paintings and photographs currently on display in the historic building once home to Sheridan's Bed and Breakfast.

For Dickens, working in such artistic surroundings is a daily treat, but she is eager to share it with area residents.

"Oh, I enjoy it," Dickens said smiling. "We're really lucky to have these here. When people come into the office, we drag them around to show them every picture. A lot of people are amazed to find out there's something like this in the community."

Public response has been positive with three paintings being sold thus far, Dickens said.

Association member Mary Effie Ford's work was one of those paintings purchased. The group allows her and fellow area artists to spend time together doing what they love most - painting.

"We paint together and we have picnics where we set up (our supplies) and paint," Ford said. "Each member holds a special program to discuss different art techniques and whatever interests them."

Pati Payne established the group 30 years ago at the suggestion of her parents who were active in a similar association in Charleston, W.Va.

Since then, its 30 members have met and exhibited their work in a variety of locations from doctor's offices to banks. They sponsor an art show every September and plans are in the works to expand such offerings.

"I love to paint and wanted to be able to meet other people in the area that share that passion," Payne said. "It gave us the chance to get together and help each other or have an art show."

Thanks to Dickens, they now hold their monthly meetings the first Monday of every month at M & M Realty and plan to add more artwork to its walls.

"We're really grateful to have this opportunity to have a permanent place for our work and for the members to have a place to get together," Payne said.

For those interested in joining the association, they can attend the meeting and bring at least two samples of their work to be considered. Membership is $15 per year.

For more information, contact Payne at 533-1516.