ST. GEORGE — If you’ve ever walked past 158 N. Main St., you’ve probably noticed the Gardner House and wondered what goes on there.
While it has been a dental office and more recently a salon, it was once home to St. George’s fourth mayor, Robert Gardner, and his third wife, Mary Ann.
“Mary Ann Gardner made it into a women’s co-op,” said the house’s current tenant, Jami Leavitt. “She banded together with a few other women who made and sold things. The town’s men closed it down because they didn’t like the competition.”
On April 30, Leavitt brought the home full circle when she launched the Gardner Home Collective. Her vision is to offer the home, through membership, to artists who would like to use the spaces therein to create work, put on small events and build community.
“I’ve lived in Oklahoma and Philadelphia,” Leavitt said. “As a photographer, I’ve always wanted to have a space I could use like this, but it didn’t exist. So when my family and I moved to St. George, I decided to make this for myself and others.”
While rent for residential and commercial space in St. George is sky-rocketing, Leavitt’s St. George roots made it possible to bring her dream to fruition.
“My grandparents bought the house in the 1990s,” she said. “I can’t disclose what they’re charging me, but it’s well below market value. That makes it possible to make this space available to myself and others.”
Besides using the handsomely decorated home, which has exquisite natural light, co-op members may also use meeting spaces and equipment as they need.
“Right now, it’s $39 a month for basic membership,” Leavitt said. “Premium membership is $149 monthly.”
Leavitt said that the COVID-19 pandemic may have made the need for spaces like hers more necessary than ever. As more and more people are working from home, whether in creative jobs or otherwise, she said people are looking to use spaces outside of their homes to make things and network.
“Premium members have access to lighting and studio equipment,” she said. “As membership grows, chances to network, collaborate and learn from others will grow too.”
While Leavitt has the privilege of using a centrally located, historic house, she also faces the same challenges as other business owners who are just getting started – namely, getting the word out.
“People are naturally curious about the house,” she said. “Almost everybody who passes stops to read the plaque. When I’m around, I get to tell them what we’re up to.”
Through getting the word out, she said, she’s also fulfilling her mission to build community.
“Like Mary Ann Gardner, I want to build a community of artists and creatives,” she said. “That’s what this is all about: meeting, sharing space, ideas and ways of working.”
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