Diana and Allen Rendell know the power of visual arts. So when they looked around their community and saw a gap, they decided to do something about it.
Art School opened in Lee’s Summit in January 2022.
“As an artist living in the Lee’s Summit area, I had a hunch that there were more artists in our community than we knew,” said Diana Rendell, who serves as the executive director, while her husband fills the role of creative director.
Connecting the community through visual arts is among the goals of Art School, a non-profit organization in downtown Lee’s Summit. The facility, at 307A SW Market St., includes both classroom and gallery spaces.
“There is a saying: ‘Prosperity follows the arts.’ The arts tend to get overlooked or brushed away as non-essential sometimes, but having a strong presence of community members who strive to create visual storytelling, beautify or generally add to the aesthetics of an environment only goes to make a place more pleasant and desirable.”
Art School’s mission is “cultivating artistic language through community engagement,” she said. That includes assisting artists and others interested in art in making, displaying, discussing, understanding and defending art while also making connections.
“We want to help artists to build their core art community and to teach people who want to know more about art-making,” she added. “Our goal is to uplift Lee’s Summit and surrounding communities through art-making and art appreciation.”
The school offers classes such as drawing, watercolor, ceramics, painting, printmaking and wheel throwing, with some classes specifically tailored for children or teens.
Life drawing sessions are also available, as are events such as Clay Nights. Camps for kids and teenagers are held throughout the summer, with topics ranging from ceramics to mixed media to painting and drawing. Art School welcomes all levels of expertise in visual arts from beginner to experienced artist.
Rendell said the response from the community has been positive, and ceramics classes and special events are especially well-received.
“When a pottery studio opens in a town, the soothing, earthy smell of clay is a siren song for anyone who has longed for that primeval squish,” he added.
On most Friday evenings, the Art School hosts a one-night try-it-out class called Clay Night to provide an introduction to the techniques of hand-building and wheel-thrown pottery.
In addition to classes, camps and events, Art School operates its own gallery, where free events are often held.
“We host art receptions just about every month,” she said. “We have done free rock painting with Alyssa’s Wishes. We hosted our first Black History Month celebration with a big party with food, a live DJ and spoken-word poetry.”
In addition, the non-profit partners with local businesses and organizations for activities like art lessons at Grains and Taps, also in downtown Lee’s Summit. Among upcoming cultural events planned at Art School is a talk about queer history in the Kansas City metro area scheduled from 4 to 5 pm June 23, just before Downtown Lee’s Summit’s Fourth Friday Art Walk.
Allen Rendell runs Art School’s Gallery, his wife said, and consistently assembles cohesive and inspiring shows. A small jury of local artists are asked to determine work that fits the theme for each show session.
“Artists are chosen based on the theme of the show, the excellence shown in the quality of the artwork,” he said. “Sometimes we show student work, which will be the case in July and August.”
Organizing Art School as a nonprofit is based on the Rendells’ decision to stay true to their mission and vision.
“We wanted to make sure that Art School is always community focused, even if Art School outlasts the Rendells,” she said.
To learn more about Art School’s educational classes, camps, events and Gallery shows, go to this website, which also includes a link for donations to the non-profit organization.