Founded in 1975 and housed in the former McGuffey Elementary School building, the McGuffey Art Center on Second Street NW is one of the oldest artist-run cooperative art centers in the country. Almost fifty artists work in the historic building as renters and the art center has over a hundred associate members as well. In this year’s Readers’ Choice, McGuffey was voted best place to see art and best place to create art. “It’s the only place in town to see art in action,” artist Sam Gray said. In studio 26, Maddie Rhondeau-Rhodes and Samantha Gray, both renting members of the art center, explained what it means to be part of an artist-run art center during a recent interview. “It means the artists are responsible for everything, from maintenance, to marketing and community outreach. You name it, the artists take care of it to keep the center open,” Rhondeau-Rhodes said. Both Gray and Rhondeau-Rhodes are clear on what the center’s mission is. “We want to make sure the art that’s created here is shared with the Charlottesville community and that we continue to be an important resource for everyone in Charlottesville,” Gray said. Inside the walls of the art center the 46 renting members who make up the arts collective, function more or less like a family, Gray and Rhondeau-Rhodes said. “We have artists who are in their twenties and we have artists who are in their seventies,” Rhondeau-Rhodes said. “Being part of a vibrant and collaborative environment is invaluable to me as an artist. It absolutely feels like a family. I learn things every day that I wouldn’t learn of I would be working from a home studio. The breadth of knowledge in this building is unbelievable.” At the same time, the older generation looks to the younger artists for help with social media, graphic design and other computer-related work. “I’m the designated millennial for the artist I’m sharing my studio with, who is in her seventies,” Rhondeau-Rhodes joked. “Inspiration and help work both ways here.” On a yearly basis, the artists at McGuffey serve over 1,500 students through workshops, classes, art camps and tours. The center offers classes on painting, drawing, performance and improv, photography and clay and mixed media, to name just a few. Relatively new for the McGuffey Art Center is the incubator studio, where six emerging artists get the chance to work at the center for a year, in an effort to work on their portfolio, learn how to work in a studio space and hone their craft. Those artists are not full members, but it could lead to a full membership to the art center, as it did for both Rhondeau-Rhodes and Gray three years ago. If there is a misconception about the McGuffey Art Center, it is that people expect the building to be private and not open to the public. “Nothing could be farther from the truth,” Gray said. “McGuffey is a public building and open to the public. When I say this is a place to see art in action, I mean you can see how art is created from idea to finished product. Just come in, and see how the artists work. It gives people a chance to connect with the artists on a personal level, and see how they create art. And by doing so, we keep all the art created here accessible to the larger community.” Rhondeau-Rhodes is honored that McGuffey was voted ‘best’ in two categories in this year’s Readers’ Choice. “It’s a testament to the great community that we serve, and also a testament to the teachers who do the workshops and the many students who take our classes. We are honored by all of this.” •