At 57, Jim Elias felt that his creative, art-filled days were far behind him. Not having painted for over three decades, Elias was surprised when it was suggested to him to create an original piece of art to present to his son Zach and new daughter-in-law, Hailey, as a wedding gift. “What do you get your child for a wedding gift? Nothing seemed personal enough.”

Elias was hesitant as he stepped into the now-unfamiliar role.

That one painting was all it took. Elias explains, “I was hooked. I could feel myself being bitten by the art bug all over again.”

After that initial painting, Elias was encouraged by others, including Shelly Servadio, his significant other, and Flynn Collier, owner of We Can Frame That, to pursue the talent.

Elias hesitantly submitted a request to participate in the Second Saturday series in downtown Muscatine over the summer months. After being approved, he began to paint new pieces to showcase at the event. He says he has painted over 20 pieces in the past year.

After participating over the summer months, Elias began to develop friendships with other area artists.  Elias was invited to paint at Calvary Church’s Canv*us Art Studio open house. While participating in the program at the church, Elias said he began to hear one common theme.

The artists needed a place to showcase their work. A place where the art can be viewed, enjoyed and potentially purchased.

Elias spoke with Chris Anderson, owner of the building at 215 East Second Street, and an idea began to form. The retail space at street level was available, and the right size for a small gallery.

Elias, Servadio, Anderson, and Collier, along with other friends, began the process of cleaning and prepping the space while making adjustments for paintings and photographs to be displayed.

Sunset River Gallery opened to the public during the Downtown open house on Sunday, November 13.

The name of the gallery was chosen as a nod to Mark Twain’s famous quote about Muscatine: “And I remember Muscatine still more pleasantly for its sunsets. I have never seen any on either side of the ocean that equaled them. The sunrises are also said to be exceedingly fine. I do not know.”

Elias says, “Sunrises represent new beginnings and fresh starts. We wanted to be able to connect with the river and still make it our own.”

In addition to Elias’ art, there are pieces displayed by local artists Laticia Pozzi, Santos Bueno, Ryan Broderson, and Shelly Servadio, with the hope of more to come.