Lebanon home features art by the roomsful

News-DemocratNovember 17, 2013 

Alicia Scolarici's studio has a comfy floral sofa. Her art covers walls and sits on easels.

Nancy Young Spence's work space is full of light, with a closet-turned-display-cabinet full of her porcelain pieces.

Becky Ripplemeyer's room includes a bathtub/display case her husband created to show off her handmade soaps, balms and lotions.

When Holly and Jim Lovell purchased a building in historic downtown Lebanon last year, they wanted artists who would not only display and sell their work, but also create on site.

"Oh, I was able to bring all my stuff that was hidden in my studio at home and bring it here," said Nancy, as she sat at a table and rotated a large vase resembling a tree trunk. "This is my first studio outside my home. This is perfect for me!"

The Lovells saw the 1912 red-brick home on West St. Louis Street as their chance to finally put in place a dream they'd had for a while: to promote art and American craftwork in a "micro-community."

"Both of us are huge fans of American craft," said Jim.

The Tiadaghton (tie-uh-DOT-tehn) House opened Aug. 31. In addition to the work in the studio-galleries upstairs, more than 50 local artists have contributed pieces for display and sale downstairs, as well as about a dozen more from other parts of Illinois and St. Louis. Mostly Arts & Crafts antiques fill in the rest of the space.

The couple, who live in O'Fallon, sought out a wide representation of skills, ages and artwork, said Jim. "If we like it and it's a good fit, we find a way to work it in. Some of the people have never shown their work (in a retail setting) before. Others have been doing this for a long time."

Through word of mouth, artists' guilds and the Internet, the business filled quickly:

* Vivid traffic-light lenses turned into platters and plates by Christy and Tony Bodnar, of Collinsville.

* Welded metal and enameled birdfeeders by Joe Papendick, of Fairview Heights, who was featured on HGTV's "I Want That."

* Photography by Adam Levy, of Collinsville, "who'd never shown in a retail space before," said Jim.

* Delicate, hand-painted ceramic pendants by Michelle Meyer, of Highland.

* Awesome "steam-punk" cog-and-wheel accessories and jewelry from Trip Probst, of Millstadt.

The contributing artists are listed with links at tiadaghtonhouse.com.

A leap of faith

Jim, 50, a retired Air Force colonel, and Holly, 49, grew up together in Jersey Shore, a small town in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. Tiadaghton is an Iroquois word that means "river of pines." It was the Indian name for Pine Creek, which flows near their hometown.

Married for 28 years, the Lovells were familiar with the metro-east from a 2005-2008 tour at Scott Air Force Base.

Jim's last stop before retiring last June was the Pentagon, and the family, which includes twins Hope and Joy, 14, and C.J., 10, was living in Virginia.

They had talked about returning to the metro-east because they already had a home here they were renting out. And, they wanted to settle somewhere before their daughters started high school.

Jim, cruising the Internet, happened upon the Lebanon retail space for sale.

"For years we'd talked about how I wanted my own store," said Holly, who put aside her work in retail and human resources to raise their family. "Jim saw this come up online, but we were still in Virginia. He said, 'Think about it.' And I said, 'We don't live there!'"

They bought the building anyway. Long distance.

Collectors of American arts and crafts wherever they were stationed, it seemed a natural fit for the couple to reach out to local artists and craftsmen to create this new business.

"We wanted to give them the opportunity to show and sell their work," Jim said.

Artists at work

Upstairs in the resident artists' studios, shoppers browsed and bought on a recent Friday morning.

All three women typically spend several days a week painting, sculpting and creating in their personalized spaces.

"I really like being able to see them work," said Carol Gerschmitt, of St. Louis, as she paused in Nancy's studio. The artist, her hands gray from clay, carved into a sculpture that included a hidden owl. A table across the room held leaf-impression bowls the 67-year-old Columbia sculptor made from high-fired porcelain.

Next stop, across the hall, was the Heirloom Soapworks gallery, where Becky was arranging bars of citrus-rosemary soap. All of her products are made with natural ingredients.

"It smells so good in here," said Mary Wentworth, of Belleville, as she admired a popular item Becky creates: tiny bars of soap with personalized scents and wrappers as favors.

In business since 2002, Becky, 50, painted, stenciled and decorated her first studio outside her home.

"I love it here," she said. "I really like Lebanon. Jim and Holly found me on the Internet and they wanted my products. Then, they asked me about studio space and here I am."

Around the corner, Alicia, 52, was dabbing paint on a wooden frame in preparation for an upcoming Chicago art show. Pretty lamps, vintage tables and small bowls filled with her jewelry added a homey touch to her workplace.

"This was a happy accident," she said of renting the space. "Jim and Holly found me at Salute to the (Arts in Fairview Heights) and it fell together from there. I thought, 'How fun would that be?'"

Alicia offers classes in Tiadaghton studio and also teaches adults two days a week at Trinity Services in Mascoutah.

"I try to be here three days at least."

It's also a way to be less solitary.

"The company here is great," said Alicia. "It's a whole different kind of studio. Home is solo; this is interactive. It's a fun atmosphere. It's nice to meet customers. Becky sits on the couch with me and we talk."

The Tiadaghton House, Art, Antiques & American Craft

111 W. St. Louis St., Lebanon

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Through Christmas, open Tuesday as well.

Information: 618-808-0311 or tiadaghtonhouse.com and on Facebook

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