Madeline Simms ‘18 first started thinking about livingin Galesburg when she stayed to work one summer. Now, she has a chance to do that work at the Galesburg Civic Art Center.
“The first time I realized, ‘Wow, I could picture myself living here’ was when I first started working over the summer when a lot of the students had left,” she said. “I think now I’m getting to know the community more in a way that I don’t think I necessarily knew as a student.”
Simms got a chance to move back here after multiple friends sent her the application for the new Community Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator. She had spent the year before as an au pair in Ireland.
Being in the Galesburg community has taken some adjustments in navigating between Knox and the city.
“It’s just kind of finding my space in that (Knox) world but also the world of Galesburg, and not saying they’re different worlds,” she said.
Working at the art center brings Simms into contact with over 130 volunteers and many parts of the wider community. She said she did not really realize how active the Galesburg art scene was until she started the job. She appreciates the diversity in the scene, with people who make art leisurely to those who make a career of it or want to explore art theory.
“My favorite thing about working at the Civic Art Center is creating a platform that is available to all people of all sorts to experience art in whatever capacity they want,” Simms said.
Carine Brown is one of the artists and volunteers at the art center. Originally from Singapore, she started making art after moving to the area and for her, making art is a way to relax. Her watercolors, collages and notecards she makes from her art are for sale at the center.
“Art is very important for everyone because in this busy world, in this complicated world, you need to venture your head into somewhere more tranquil,” she said. “And art is a place you can rest, you can take moments to come down.”
During her time at Knox, Simms had taken a few art classes and said she had considered teaching, which has combined well in her current position. She coordinates the volunteers, the hosted events at the art center and also works at the events, since it can be difficult to ensure enough volunteers are signed up for every event.
Simms’ position was created out of two part time positions. The Executive Director of the Civic Art Center, Tuesday Çetin, lives in Galesburg part time and needs someone to be on-site. There are also two people who work in the gift shop.
The volunteers are one of the highlights of the job for Simms. Out of the over 130 on the email list, she works with around two a day. Volunteers do everything from helping run events to moving and putting away supplies from Blick.
“The volunteers are amazing, I love the women É that I work with,” she said. “I really work ‘with’ them.”
Brown has also found having the artists volunteer brings them in contact with the people who consume their art. The art scene is important for Galesburg and the art center is central to that.
“It’s just a good way É for we artists as well as the people who buy (art to interact),” she said.
Simms runs both regularly occurring and special events with the volunteers. This month there is the annual Paint Crawl on Oct. 17 along with weekly Senior Studios for those over the age of 62 and Something New Saturdays for kids. Simms is also starting an after school program with GHS North, the alternative high school in Galesburg.
“We have a lot of artists that come and work for us and will do the workshops and things, and then on top of that the volunteers that also want to provide their skill set for different opportunities,” she said.
Those interested in volunteering can get in contact with Simms through the “Get Involved” tab on the About page at galesburgarts.org.