Drive through Mt. Adams and find Parkside Place, next to Eden Park. At the bottom of the hill at 1021 Parkside Place is the Cincinnati Art Club in a nondescript, brick one-story building dating to the 1950’s.
The outside of the club fools the average passerby. Inside is a club which dates to the late 19th century. A group of thirteen artists met in the studio of Clarence A. Bartlett on March 15, 1890 and organized a group called the Cincinnati Art Club, whose purpose was established that year.
The club retains the purpose established in 1890, “namely to advance the knowledge and appreciation of art within the community and to assist local artists in developing the skills to present the highest art to the community.”
Meetings were held at a number of rental locations or homes during the early years of the club. The first clubhouse was established in 1923 on East Third St. Expressway construction eliminated this property in 1955. The club moved to the current location on Parkside Place in 1957.
CAC officers are considering a move from the current location because the club has outgrown the building. It is also difficult to park in Mt. Adams with only on street parking available. CAC has acquired property next door. The club is reviewing resources needed to expand the building to include space available for gallery, meetings and a studio simultaneously.
Founding fathers were well-known artists.
John Rettig became the first president. Other members included Matt Daly, Remmington Lane and John Henry Sharp. Frank Duveneck was elected the fourth president in 1896.
Famous artists gave works to the club.
Not only were there notable artists involved in the founding of the club, but there are also many significant artists such as Henry Mosler, John Twachtman, Edward Potthast and Herman Wessel, who donated work now kept in a vault of the club. There are over 100 paintings in the permanent collection.
Even though the club has a certain pedigree of artists or may be perceived as a private club, it is open to anyone. Most of the members are artists, but not all. Anyone may join at the associate member level. In order to move to the signature level or join directly at that level, candidates must submit five current examples of their work for evaluation by a standing jury committee of club management. Review is conducted at least twice annually. Men were the first members. In 1979 the Board offered membership to women. Today, approximately 350 are members of the club.
Some people join the club for the camaraderie, but more likely for the exhibitions, lectures, sketch work sessions, critique and an art library.
The club is the second continually operating organization of its kind west of the Allegheny Mountains.
CAC hosts a national juried show called Viewpoint every fall. This year, it will be at Greenwich Gallery in O’Bryonville from September 14 to October 13.
CAC compares to Salmagundi Club, a fine arts center in Greenwich Village, New York City.
Roger Heuck, whose great uncle was John Henry Twachtman, started painting in 1992 and joined CAC because he wanted to be associated with artists. While he enjoyed the camaraderie, he was eventually asked to join the board. He served as treasurer, vice president and president. Heuck now is curator of paintings.
Member Mark Daly is an American impressionist who exhibits nationally, and is represented in Cincinnati by Cincinnati Art Galleries. Daly joined CAC in 2007 and by 2008 became a signature member. “I knew of its history. I knew some of the people,” Daly said. He mentioned its history of renowned artists.
“I looked at what they had to offer. The critique appealed to me,” he said. Daly also appreciated the feedback on his work. “You learn from other artists,” he said. “You hone your skills and help others,” he added.
Historian Dave Klocke had a career as a mechanical engineer and retired in 1994. “A lot of engineering required visualizing outcome before the work was done,” he said.
He planned on painting seriously eight to ten years before retirement. He joined the club in 1985. By 1988 he had achieved signature status. In his second career, Klocke studied, did extensive plein air workshops and continued his education at Thomas More College receiving an associate of arts degree in 1996.
Klocke was a hobby artist beginning in fifth grade. “My mother sent me to art lessons,” he said. Miss Eileen McCarthy, student of Duveneck, was his teacher.
He now works in watercolor and acrylic painting mostly landscapes. He exhibits at Greenwich Gallery as well as Argosy Gallery in Bar Harbor, Maine. Klocke has enjoyed painting excursions to Italy, France and England.
At CAC, he found other artists such as Ray Loos and Don Dennis, both past presidents, whose work he admired.
He made new friends at the club. “It’s a social organization,” he said. “By the early 1990’s, Tom Eckley asked me to join the board.” Klocke served as exhibitions chair, treasurer and ultimately president.
The sketch group meets twice a week with approximately 20 people and a live model. Klocke also liked workshops led by leading artists such as John Michael Carter. There is now a digital arts working group meeting once per month.
African-American artist Velma Morris, 80, was one of the first women to join the club. She didn’t seek it out; she was asked. Morris, an acrylic painter, likes the club because she is surrounded by like-minded people and because it brings in different artists to demonstrate how they make art work.
President Clark Stevens said that the club is not in the business of making sales. According to Stevens, the club maintains a low profile. Although the Cincinnati artist community has heard of CAC, many other people have not. There are no paid employees, only volunteers.
“The very first time I picked up a pencil was first grade,” Stevens said. He spent some time in wholesale jewelry manufacturing as well as programming computers.
“It became more sensible to think about something else,” Stevens said. “I started painting on my own and taking workshops at CAC.” He changed his focus from painting to sculpture.
A challenge Stevens finds is balancing the interest to do more with less. For example, there is a cost involved in bringing nationally recognized artists for a workshop
“The most valuable thing an artist can have is another pair of eyes,” said Stevens. “I am grateful every time for constructive criticism.”
Stevens said, “We offer something specialized – people to learn and develop their skills in a personalized way.”
He thinks CAC fits into the art scene in Cincinnati. “There are a lot of ways to get engaged in the art,” he said, such as Final Friday at Pendleton, the Essex Studios Art Walk, ArtWorks, Cincinnati Art Museum, the Duveneck Society and the Woman’s Art Club of Cincinnati. CAC has a long history of remarkable artists as well as a large artist community.