County dems open artist co-op

Published 6:55 pm Thursday, September 29, 2011

When one thinks of Cass County, the arts aren’t often what jumps to mind.
But a group of county residents are hoping to change that.
The Cass County Democratic Party is opening an artist cooperative and gallery in its building at 804 East State St. in Cassopolis.
“We have an amazing amount of talent in this area,” said Democratic Club chairperson Cathy LaPointe.
So far, seven local artists are involved with the Cass Artists Co-op and there is room for five more.
“If it really takes off, we can certainly expand,” LaPointe said.
One of those artists is Dowagiac resident Rudy Montgomery, who said the co-op has resurrected his passion for art.
“I was kind of in a dry spell creatively, and it killed me inside,” he said. “But this has given me so much inspiration.”
Since joining the co-op a few weeks ago, Montgomery has churned out 10 new pieces. Most of his works are paintings although he also carves walking sticks. Much of his work is already on display and for sale at the gallery.
Deb Wiggins, a Cassopolis resident who also is showing her work at the co-op, said the gallery meets a need in the community.
“There is definitely a need for an outlet for local artists,” she said. “We had a dynamite artisan store (in Cassopolis) a couple years ago.”
But the co-op isn’t the only new development at the Cass County Democratic Party Headquarters. A coffee shop is also open in place of the now defunct Color Us Blue Thrift Shop.
“The thrift shop supported us for five years and then with the downturn of the economy, donations weren’t really coming in, so we figured we need to try something new,” LaPointe said.
Although located in the Democratic party headquarters, the coffee shop is in no way partisan, LaPointe said.
“It’s just a community gathering place,” she said.
There will be free wi-fit, couches and tables for people to play games or cards and for students to work on homework. The party will take donations for the coffee and treats.
Again, LaPointe believes it is filling a community need.
“We definitely see a need for this in the community, a place to socialize, talk politics or anything else,” she said. “Up until now, McDonald’s was the only popular place.”
LaPointe said both the coffee shop and art co-op have been a work in progress for a few months, but a grand opening and fish fry is on the way to introduce them to the community.
The building is open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The building is typically closed during the winter. But LaPointe said if the coffee house and art gallery take off, it could potentially stay open.