Local businesses supporting local art


Morgan Carney, sophomore in apparel, merchandising and design, studies underneath the art of Dani Barr at Stomping Grounds, a coffee shop on Welch Avenue. The oil paintings surround the shop, brightening the atmosphere with splashes of color.   

Mackenzie Nading

Small towns are notorious for close-knit communities working hard to support one another. Although Ames is not always considered a small town, it still carries that small-town ideal. All around the Ames community, local entrepreneurs are supporting fellow hometown artists.

Customers may not realize it, but the art hanging on the walls of their favorite coffee shop, or the acoustic performance they heard at an open mic night may have been produced by Ames residents and students. All around town, small businesses are featuring local artists in big ways, and many of them believe it is a mutually beneficial relationship.

Stomping Grounds

The recently expanded cafe located on Welch Avenue has an eclectic atmosphere familiar to customers. The mood is calm, the voices hushed and lighting dim. But the most noticeable feature inside the cafe is the art clinging to the walls. The pieces covering the walls are always unique and always created by a local artist. Most artists are from Ames, but others from surrounding areas also contribute.

Artwork in the cafe rotates every six weeks. One artist is featured at a time, allowing for a range of their work to be shown throughout the shop. The walls are equipped with professional hanging systems so the art is safely and properly hung. Stomping Grounds does not charge for artwork to be displayed nor do they take commission for any merchandise sold.

“It’s a win-win situation: We get nice art for our shop, and we give artists exposure,” said Jonathan Reed, owner of Stomping Grounds.

Any artist wanting to feature their work in the cafe can contact Reed at [email protected].

Cafe Milo

Located in West Ames, Cafe Milo is well-known around campus for its fun coffee flavors and comfortable studying atmosphere. Like Stomping Grounds, Cafe Milo’s support of local artists can be seen on its walls.

“We have a monthly rotation of what we call fine art,” said Zachary Gilbert, barista and marketing manager of Cafe Milo.

Fine art includes anything from paintings to photography to sculptures. The coffee shop does a monthly rotation of artists. All work is done by Ames residents and some ISU students. The goal is to have 12 different artists a year featured throughout the cafe.

Cafe Milo has a personal connection to art as well. The manager of the shop is an ISU graduate from the College of Design who personally appreciates the fine art that is displayed.

“We get our walls decorated for free, and people get to display and sell their work,” Gilbert said. “It just fits.”

T Galaxy

It’s hard to miss the bright-colored mural painted on the side of T Galaxy located on Welch Avenue, right in the heart of Campustown. The painting is made to celebrate community and reflect well-known Campustown features.

“I think art enriches everyone’s lives,” said Barry Nadler, owner of T Galaxy. “The mural seemed like a good project and a nice design, and I always thought that would be a good use for that side of the building.”

Kristin Roach designed the mural and coordinated the volunteers to help make it come to life. Contributors to the art include ISU staff and students, Campustown business owners, local artists and community members. “We had over 50 volunteers ranging in age from 4 to 65, including City Council members,” Roach said.

The mural was scraped, patched, primed, transferred, painted in and sealed in just two weeks, a task that would not have been possible without community support.  The crew received the Paint Iowa Beautiful grant and received material donations from Scherwin-Williams, Lowe’s, Theisen’s and Diamond Vogel Paints to help complete the project.

“We wanted to create a project where everyone could come and help paint,” Roach said. “That’s what we were able to do.”

Prairie Moon Winery

Nestled right outside of Ames in the countryside is Prairie Moon Winery. Well known to the Ames area, this business has been supporting local artists since its start. “One of our main artists is the daughter of the owner, Lindsay Nissen,” said Janet Nissen, Prairie Moon’s events coordinator, “She does the majority of our label artwork and paintings on the walls.”

However, Nissen isn’t the only local artist featured. Prairie Moon offers a chance for anyone to display their work. Their winery walls are always looking for another unique style. They will display a collection of work for a month or more and then rotate it out. They also offer art shows at the winery for artists who are interested.

Prairie Moon is open to any and all artists who approach them wanting to showcase their work. “We are more than willing to get people to hang their art here and get exposure,” Nissen said.

The winery also supports local music in the summer. They host a summer-long concert series on Sundays. Attendees do pay a cover charge.  However, it is free exposure for the artist. Live music lasts from 3 to 6 p.m. with all local live bands.

“Our main goal is to support local artists, whether musical, graphic or sculpture,” Nissen said. “We are definitely willing to help anyone and give them exposure. “