It all started with a very simple desire. 
“Our main focus was to make sure that art happened in the community,” says Anne Jesse, chairperson of the Elyria Arts Council. “We decided to go for it.”
So Jesse and a group of seven other people got to dreaming — and logging long hours for free. By April of 2015, they were renting a former jewelry store on Broad Street where they displayed work by local artists and offered an assortment of classes.
The result is a place where community members feel welcome to pop by to paint their own masterpiece — or just to browse, leaving with an original work of art purchased for anywhere from $30 to $1,500 from the more than three dozen artists represented. 
“We were surprised when we first opened our doors how many talented artists there were in the area,” Jesse says. 
You might walk in and be drawn to “Swamp,” a surrealist painting of downtown Cleveland swarming with sharks done by David Pavlak ($1,500). Or your eye might gravitate toward “Three Pears,” an impressionist still life of a vase of hydrangea, next to golden pears by Floyd Kemp ($395). 
The next leap forward came in 2016 when the city was awarded a grant to buy the building being rented by the Arts Council, giving the group a more permanent home.
Meanwhile, the vacant lot next door was transformed into Pioneer Plaza with the help of local artists, including Jesse and other Arts Council members, who worked for countless hours on colorful murals that pay respect to the city’s heritage. 
“It has transformed this place wonderfully,” Jesse says. “It was just an empty lot before. We didn’t realize how ugly it was until we started painting.”
With a permanent home and a few years under its belt, the Arts Council has now found its stride. It offers classes teaching painting, pottery and photography, as well as drop-in art classes for children. (A $3 donation is recommended, but not required.)
The council is also in the process of forming a potter’s guild, so that artists can come in and work any time on their pottery. “Some of these guys don’t need instruction,” Jesse says. “They just love being here and doing great work.”
Someone is always coming up with new ideas, says Jesse, including an initiative to make holiday greeting cards to send to deployed soldiers, which is now done every winter.
“We’re passionate about art,” Jesse says. “And we make sure things happen.”
Elyria Arts Council, 336 Broad St., Elyria, 440-328-3025, 

» Upcoming exhibits at the Elyria Arts Council include a retrospective art show featuring Megan Rowe and David Pavlak (April 21 to May 27) that includes paintings from both artists from the 1960s through present. Art of the Bicycle (May 13-20) celebrates National Bike Week.