SUBSCRIBE NOW

Iowa State University Workspace is a portal to the arts

Art Mart is happening with COVID-19 precautions

Sara Jordan-Heintz
Contributing writer

Nestled down a winding staircase in the basement of the ISU Memorial Union is the Workspace, a room dedicated to creative expression.

Letitia Kenemer has served as the Workspace’s coordinator for the past 18 years.

“The Workspace has been around since the late 60s/early 70s and has changed and evolved throughout the years,” she said. “A lot of craft centers that were in unions across the United States got cut in the 80s and early 90s, so we’re lucky we’ve been around so long.”

When the university closed down due to COVID-19, Kenemer began offering Art-2-Go kits for sale. Using supplies and materials already in-house, she put together packages filled with basic supplies, such as wood or a blank canvas, paint, glue and brushes, based on the theme.

Nestled down a winding staircase in the basement of the ISU Memorial Union is the Workspace, which offers arts and crafts to the public. Letitia Kenemer has served as the Workspace’s coordinator for the past 18 years. Its biannual Art Mart sale started Nov. 18.

“I would get the orders, put them together with a co-worker, get in the car, and drive them to people’s houses, dropping them on the doorsteps,” Kenemer said. “It may have looked like this big production on the outside, but really it was just a few people working on it day-to-day.”

The kits remain a popular offering, even after the Workspace reopened to the public in August.

“Our foot traffic is down. It’s one of the hardest things. If you’re downstairs and not looking for the Workspace, you’re either a mechanical worker, or you’re lost,” she said with a laugh.

The Workspace is staffed by students but is open to the general public. Classes and workshops, which are on hold due to COVID-19, are available to those ages 16 and older. Children may spend time in the Workspace, accompanied by an adult. The long-running tango lessons with Valerie Williams were also canceled.

Social distancing is enforced and masks are required.

“I’ve been able to connect with people and have some small events, but it’s not the same vibe in the Workspace right now,” she said.

The Workspace is open Monday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed Sundays.

“It’s not about making a masterpiece; it’s about the process of letting yourself relax, and hopefully making something you love,” she added. 

The biannual Art Mart, which takes place in the Memorial Union Art Gallery on the first floor, was set to start Wednesday. It continues Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“The essential part of Art Mart will be there. It’s just going to be a little different,” she said of the COVID-19 restrictions.

Guests are limited in the gallery. Art offered will include pottery, blown glass, jewelry, accessories, prints and “Mystery Boxes.”

The event is co-hosted by the ISU Gaffer’s Guild, and the group will showcase its blown glass including vases, vessels, ornaments and sculptural works.

“In addition to running the Workspace, I also manage the art gallery,” she said. “The permanent collection has 320 pieces.”

Kenemer has an art degree from ISU. Previously, she worked at the Octagon Center for the Arts. She is a mixed media assemblage artist and hopes to host a solo show in the future.

The Workspace will be closed Saturday through Jan. 17. It will reopen on Jan. 18 with free crafts in honor of Martin Luther King Day. Art-2-Go kits will be available during some of the time the Workspace is closed for break.  

To learn more, visit workspace.mu.iastate.edu.