Maquoketa Art Experience, chamber reopen to public

MAQUOKETA, Iowa — After several months of renovations, the home of two nonprofits in downtown Maquoketa has a new look.

Maquoketa Art Experience and Maquoketa Chamber of Commerce, which share a building at 124 S. Main St. reopened to the public on Tuesday.

Since mid-May, staff and volunteers from the two organizations have worked remotely while the building was closed for upgrades. The work included repainting and the installation of new carpet, a new ceiling and new LED lights, said Bob Osterhaus, Maquoketa Art Experience board president.

On Tuesday morning, several Maquoketa Art Experience volunteers were hanging art on the freshly painted walls.

Volunteer Barb Bowman said the nonprofit typically hosts two-month-long exhibits featuring the work of two artists at a time.

However, the next long-term exhibit isn’t due to start until November. In the interim, the gallery will feature pieces from local artists, from paintings to fiber art to beading and clay work.

“There’s getting to be more and more renowned artists in the Maquoketa area right now,” Bowman said.

Chamber Executive Director Kristie Carr said the renovation largely was handled by the Art Experience, but the chamber has certainly benefited from the efforts.

“It’s nice to have that fresh space for our members to be able to come in and enjoy,” she said.

Osterhaus said the Art Experience and the chamber have worked closely together for several years. Art Experience volunteers help staff the chamber’s welcome desk on weekends, and the two organizations frequently exchange expertise and advice.

“It’s been good for both organizations to have that arrangement, and we’re hoping that will continue,” he said. “It makes sense, in a town our size, to be efficient.”

More than $125,000 already has been raised to cover the renovations, including a $50,000 gift from Mary Joy and Jerre Stead. The couple are former Maquoketa residents who have supported philanthropic causes such as University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, named for them.

Osterhaus said he anticipates additional funds will be necessary, as the cost of certain materials has increased significantly during the pandemic.

“We think we know about how much we’re going to spend, but this whole project has had some surprises,” he said. “I’m guessing we’re going to spend $15,000 to $20,000 more than that ($125,000).”

A second part of the project, which involves the rehabbing of the building’s upstairs space into four apartments, is ongoing. Osterhaus said contractors hope to complete the work by Nov. 1, with an open house to be held in late October.

For now, he said, Art Experience volunteers are eager to host events and welcome visitors to the new space.

“We’ve not been operating under normal conditions for over four months,” he said. “… We’re excited about the ability to restore some level of programming.”