Perry’s pleasures both of body and mind will soon be multiplied with the newly announced opening of the Raccoon Valley Centre for the Arts in downtown Perry.
Life has few enough pleasures, to be sure, so none should be neglected and when up and running, the Raccoon Valley Centre for the Arts (RVCA) will feature a broad range of arts. Jonathon and Karina Levy, owners of the Centre, which is housed at the rear of 1205 Second St., said their mission in opening the RVCA is at once high minded and wholly practical.
“The arts are more than a kind of frivolous ornament that’s less important than the serious business of life, such as making money,” Jonathon Levy said last week, as he and Karina prepared to renovate their downtown premises.
“The fine arts make us fully human,” he said.
The RVCA will make its first big splash Thursday, May 5 at 4:30 p.m., with the opening of an exhibition of art works by Karina Levy’s father, William D. Sturdevant. La Poste will host the show.
Sturdevant, an Iowa native born in 1922, has been described as “the fourth renegade” among the Depression-era circle of American Regionalist painters, Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton and John Stuart Curry. Sturdevant’s work is sometimes seen as a bridge between the social realism of the Regionalists and the modernist tendencies in American art that issued in the 1950s in abstract expressionism and similar schools.
Sturdevant exhibited his work around the world and in many of the finest galleries in the U.S. He also had a studio in San Diego, Calif., from the 1950s to the 1970s and later taught art at East High School in Des Moines for many years.
The RVCA exhibition of Studevant’s work will offer the rediscovery of this nearly forgotten American artist and will form a fitting opening for the Centre, which will house some Sturdevant works in a permanent collection.
“This exhibit marks the first public viewing of his work in nearly 50 years,” Karina Levy said, “with the opportunity to view and collect first-run editions of aquatint prints never before seen.”
Following the Sturdevant exhibition, classes in ballet and other forms of dance will take the lead at the RVCA. Both Levys were professional ballet dancers. Karina performed with the original Ballet Iowa company, and Jonathon toured with the St. Louis Ballet. They met while dancing together in a Florida ballet production.
Jonathon Levy said he and his wife have been warmly welcomed to the Perry area.
“We haven’t even opened for business yet,” he said, “but we’ve gotten more supportive communication and assistance than we ever got in Redfield, and we were there for a year.”
Jonathon Levy said enrollment will open soon for classes starting in June. Massage therapy will also be offered on site by Karina, a licensed massage therapist. Longer-term plans call for art lectures and classes, poetry slams and cooking classes. Jonathon Levy is also a trained chef and practiced his culinary arts most recently at the Dexfield Diner.
“We’re not looking to be just an art gallery trying to sell art but a real art center,” he said. “If we can get some support, both financial and participatory, from the people in the area, I think we can have a real neat thing here in Perry.”
Levy said the RVCA will fit right in with Perry’s development of its cultural district, finding a place among events from Art on the Prairie to Antique Days to programs at the Carnegie Library Museum and Hometown Heritage.
“The ladies of La Poste we so excited about the idea that they had us persuaded to come here even before we visited,” Levy said. “And once we got here, we realized right away that we’ve been about 20 minutes south of where we should be.”
For more information, visit the Raccoon Valley Centre for the Arts website, email info@RVCArts.org or call 775-250-2162.