Ms. Starkweather taught art and drafting in the Romeo school system for more than forty years. Many current residents fondly remember having Helen as a teacher. Starkweather Arts Center owes its existence to a trust created by Helen Starkweather, a lifelong resident of Romeo.
When Helen died in 1987 at the age of eighty-four, she left her estate to the Romeo Historical Society and the Village of Romeo. Her will stipulated that her home and studio at 219 North Main Street be used as an art and cultural center “…dedicated to promoting and fostering the appreciation of art and artisans and to support the preservation of the character and quality of the Village”.
In 1989, the Board of Trustees incorporated the Starkweather Society, a not-for-profit membership organization dedicated to fulfilling the wishes expressed in Ms. Starkweather’s will. On November 13, 1999, Ms. Starkweather’s former home and studio was officially opened to the public as the Starkweather Arts Center. The Center includes two beautiful exhibit galleries and a sales gallery. Our 2nd floor gallery restoration project was completed in 2009 and has allowed us to launch an Art Education program and host monthly Open Mic Nights to area musicians and performers. In recent years, many building updates have occurred including transforming the Carriage House into a Clay Studio which has allowed us to engage in "Empty Bowl" fundraisers for local food pantries. A structural failure made it necessary to rebuild the frontage in 2017 and we monitor building issues very closely as the 1865 structure requires vigilance to keep it in good running order.
In the 20+ years since the incorporation, many volunteers and corporations have contributed to Starkweather’s success. The Starkweather Arts Center is dependent in large part on the generosity of its membership dues and volunteer efforts. We are also dependent on, and have been fortunate to receive, major support from taxpayer grants, corporate sponsorships, donations and special event fundraising. Four County Community Foundation,Ford Motor Company, Venture Global Foundation, L&L Products of Romeo, Romeo Lions and Romeo Area Kiwanis have been especially generous with their financial help. We also wish to acknowledge Art Works and Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.
Starkweather makes it a point to work with local groups to host community events such as the Chamber of Commerce in hosting the yearly "Romeo Art & Wine Walk". We recently partnered with the DIA and Romeo DDA to create a mural in downtown Romeo entitled "The Spirit of Romeo" in hopes of not only beautifying the village but to help engender more interest in public art. Our Art Gallery Shows are varied and include a yearly Members Show, Student Art Show, a juried show curated by the Romeo Guild of Art, and various exhibits by local artists and art organizations.
Helen Starkweather understood the value of art in society. It is the goal of the Starkweather Board to foster and promote artistic excellence in the Village of Romeo and surrounding communities. By providing quality art experiences through art education, exhibits and events, Starkweather aims to enhance the quality of life in Northern Macomb County.
The Starkweather Arts Center building and garden
Watercolor by Helen Starkweather