from the ExposeKenosha archives – Originally posted on September 29th, 2007
Melanie Hovey – Executive Director Lemon Street Gallery
by Tammy Peacy
Franco Tarsitano calls Melanie Hovey the Mother of Art in Kenosha. This is a term she isn’t entirely comfortable with.
“…don’t say the Mother of Arts, That seems like a kind of lofty position,” says Melanie, I.m more like the mother to the artist™. I™m the go-to person.”
Melanie, a painter and stained glass artist, is the founder and director of Lemon Street Gallery, an artist’s collective that began when five artists sitting around a table in the spring of 1998, said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could exhibit together?”
We had a space downtown that one of the artists had been renting, reports Melanie. She was done being in business, so she said, You can have this space if you want it.” The rent had been paid for the month, but the group couldn’t gather enough artists together during that one month period to make a go of it. But the seed was planted. Melanie and her husband began shopping for a building that would produce an income to pay the mortgage. We bought this building and the apartments upstairs, they pay the mortgage, she says of the former liquor store at the corner of Sheridan and 46th Street. We said, ˜Okay, we’re ready. We’ve got a place. Let’™s go. We opened November 5, 1999.
As an artist’s collective, the members at Lemon Street made decisions about what they wanted to get done and how things would be run. One of the things that has been a hallmark of Lemon Street Gallery is that from the very beginning we have facilitated what artists and people need. That was providing workspace, or networking opportunities, or exhibition opportunities. Bring your kids, some people have brought their dogs. Everybody is welcome. Everybody needs to have art in their life.
In the beginning members volunteered one day per month. Up until a year and a half ago, there was no paid staff. Whenever Franco [Tarsitano] came on board, we were doing what we had been doing and it was fine. Franco has a very keen business sense and he saw us more as a thriving organization that could really be doing so much more. Since Franco was hired on as manager, Lemon Street has been more involved in community outreach and partnering with other arts focused non-profits.
We’re working with a few corporations right now that have opportunities for artists, Melanie said in response to the question of where she sees Lemon Street’s future as their ten-year anniversary approaches. It’s very exciting. I see Lemon Street doing some absolutely phenomenal things. I will say that as the director of Lemon Street I am in this wonderfully unique position of being very aware of the arts development in our community.
Melanie is on the board of AHA!, the Arts and Humanities Alliance of Kenosha and one of the founders, as well as a founding member of the Kenosha Harbor Market. “I am very involved in every kind of aspect that will facilitate arts opportunities to artists as well as helping the community really understand the economic benefits of providing good arts opportunities.”
Melanie may not consider herself the Mother of Art in Kenosha, but she is doing a rather fine job of gathering it into her arms, nurturing it and giving it what it needs to grow. Kind of like, well, a mother.
Note: This article was originally posted on September 29th, 2007