Susan Rodgers’ smile is shining as bright as the sun that’s finally warming up the first week of summer in the North End. It’s her excitement beaming out as the finishing touches are put on her new Cleo’s Learning Center for the Arts at Cleo’s Landing in old town Kingston.
She envisions the 515 square-foot meeting space, that’s topped off with a 650 square-foot rooftop sculpture garden, as not only a place to offer art classes, but also host conferences, receptions and anything to serve her mission to “Bring People to Town!”
The center can be rented for $30 per hour with a two-hour minimum, which includes use of the rooftop garden and adjoining Kingston Art Gallery.
“I’ve been hanging on a wire here for 11 years and I’ve been committed to having a retail base at Cleo’s Landing so it’s worth the walk up the street,” Rodgers said of her efforts to bring visitors up Highway 104 from the marina and ferry terminal. “I want to keep this a thriving little town.”
She also hopes the learning center can serve as a retail testing ground for incubator businesses who want a highly visible space to sell wares on weekends.
Rodgers initially began the project as an extension for the Kingston Art Gallery, but when cooperative members told her last May they couldn’t risk taking on additional rent with the state of the economy and gas prices, she optimistically declared, “I will turn lemons into lemonade!”
She said Clint Boxman pointed out that by combining the center with the rooftop garden and art gallery, it could serve as a location for a variety of events, adding a much-needed meeting space to North Kitsap. Already she has scheduled trunk shows, tag sales and art and interior design classes. The space is perfect for wine tastings, lectures, writing and theater courses, puppet shows and scrapbooking, she said.
“It’s a little, tiny cultural center for every kind of thing that the culture enjoys,” she said.
There will be comfortable folding chairs and tables to arrange in any combination, a small kitchen, sound system, bathroom and generous amounts of natural and track lighting.
Contractor Joe Michak and his assistant Scott Trueb will finish the project this month, and Rodgers will have the doors open on the Fourth of July so the public can take a look. The flagpoles out front will wave with bright new flags designed by gallery artists. Hetty Bizzell, landscaper for Cleo’s Landing the last decade, will add colorful plantings and once the building is complete, a 15-foot diameter concrete circle with a stone infinity labyrinth will be created outside.
Cleo’s Landing is also home to Rodgers’ Design Connection, the Kingston Community News and Yachtminder Yacht Brokerage, and she owns the cottage next door housing the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center. Cleo’s Landing is a tribute to her mother, Cleo Rodgers, who became an artist late in life and loved social gatherings.
“I’d say she’d be thrilled,” Rodgers concluded.
For a calendar of events and reservations, go to www.cleoslanding.com or call Susan Rodgers at (360) 297-4414.