SPIRIT OF STANLY 2024: Stanly Arts Guild still going strong at 60

For the first 44 years of its existence, the Stanly Arts Guild was without a public venue for selling art. In 2007 a group of downtown merchants in Albemarle offered the Guild access to the Belk Building on West Main Street as a home for the Guild and a venue for selling art. A contest to name the venue was held, and Falling Rivers Gallery was selected as the name.

Grey Carle, of New London, was voted in as the original director of the Gallery, serving from 2007-2009. At that time, Nancy Lipe, from Millingport, became the director and served until June 2018, when the building was sold and Falling Rivers Gallery was dissolved.

After several months of searching the Guild found a new home at 330C N. Second St. in Albemarle. It opened in February 2019, selling art in what was originally built as an A&P grocery store in the early 1950s.

Lili Holland works on an art display during Stanly Arts Guild’s open house. (Photo by CHARLES CURCIO/staff)

The “Summer Art Explosion” has been an annual tradition of the Stanly Arts Guild for several decades. Well-known judges are selected to judge the local and regional fine arts exhibit, making this a highlight of summer at the Guild.
Regular monthly meetings have been an integral part of the Stanly Arts Guild since its organization. According to past minutes, the Stanly Room, located in the Home Savings and Loan building, was the dominant place to meet, with a few other locations being Christ Episcopal Church, First Lutheran Church, Stanly County Public Library and Stanly Community College.

Inflation has affected the cost of Guild membership, as early dues were $6. By the mid 1990s, the dues had doubled to $12, and have now risen to the current cost of $40 per year.

Some of the first presidents of the Guild were Bob Amos, Dick Jarrett, Mary K. Spear, Grace Tunner, Myrtle Ridenhour, Judy Murrell and Creola Williams. Later presidents include Pat Hartley, Anita Ammerman, Faith Alexander, Margaret Sauls, Jaclyn Layman, Nancy Lipe, Millie Campbell, and now, Wendy Hillhouse.

The Stanly Arts Guild has come a long way in the sixty years of its existence and leadership of artists and art lovers has been a huge factor in its success.

This article originally appeared in the Spirit of Stanly magazine.