Minneapolis artist Florence Hill has hosted a life drawing co-op for nearly four decades

  • Article by: KEVYN BURGER , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 3, 2013 - 3:35 PM

A drawing co-op, started by a local artist to keep her skills sharp, has fostered an enduring creative community.

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Every Sunday for the past 38 years, Florence Hill has opened her studio to “the artful pack.”

Every. Single. Sunday.

Watergate was winding down and the Captain & Tennille were cranking out hits when Hill first started celebrating Sunday by tuning in a classical station, brewing a pot of coffee and slicing a loaf of home-baked sweet bread to welcome artists to the Florence Hill Drawing Co-op.

Since then, the rules haven’t changed. “No pre-registration, no instruction, no critique,” said Hill.

Nor has the day.

If Christmas, New Year’s or July 4th falls on a Sunday, the co-op meets just the same. “They don’t have to call to make sure we’re on,” she said. “If they want to work, they show up.”

And show up they do. While a few artists try the co-op once or twice, a surprising number have returned weekly for years — even decades. “This is art church,” said commercial artist Greg Lipelt of Minneapolis, a co-op regular. “Art is our religion and this is where we have our fellowship. This is our whetstone, where we sharpen our tools.”

 

Hill, who, at 83 continues to sell, show and exhibit, said she started the co-op for a simple reason: “I paint better Monday when I draw on Sunday,” she said. “It keeps the hand and eye trained.”

But for artist members, the co-op — located in the California Building in northeast Minneapolis — has become an integral part of their creative process, and sometimes their personal lives.

Three couples who met here have married. Scores of others have connected to find romance, jobs and roommates. There are even middle-aged regulars who first participated as blushing teenagers, accompanying their parents.

Blushing, because in Hill’s life drawing co-op, like most others, the artists share expenses (currently $7 per person a week) to offset the cost of a live model, who poses in the nude.

Hill is quick to point out that an artist’s interest in the human body is clinical, not prurient. When they look at a naked model, they see shape, form, light, shadow.

“Sometimes men who want to pose tell me they’re buff,” said Hill, who hires the models. “We don’t care about buff!

“I had an exotic dancer once who tried to be sexy. We didn’t have her back. Another model said, kind of disgusted, ‘They look at me like I’m a still life.’ I didn’t have the heart to tell her, ‘Well, that’s what you are to us.’ ”

Captured by the landscape

Born just as the Depression began, Hill grew up on land her grandparents homesteaded on the flat prairie along the Canadian border.

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  • Artists show up on Sundays — as they have for the past 38 years — at Florence Hill’s studio in northeast Minneapolis to participate in the Florence Hill Drawing Co-op.

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