Route 79 towns call artists to area

By Deborah Reinhardt
Managing Editor
Published: Mar/Apr 2000

Some spots along state Route 79 in northeast Missouri are as pretty as a picture. Now, members of three picture-perfect communities are inviting artists from around the country to come and see for themselves.

ArtistClarksville, Louisiana and Hannibal are working together to create a community for artists along a 50-mile stretch of scenic Route 79 (the Great River Road). Organizers say the artistic flavor would bring additional tourism and economic development to the cities.

The arts are alive in these communities, with dozens of shops and galleries already doing business, plus full special event calendars (next up, Hannibal hosts the Mississippi River Art Fair over Memorial Day weekend). But there’s room for more.

"You have to look at new ways to encourage growth," said Dee David, development specialist with the Northeast Missouri Development Authority.

The idea for 50 Miles of Art started almost five years ago through conversations of Hannibal artists Steve and Linn Ayers and Louisiana artists John and Karen Stoeckley. Steve Ayers and his wife, Linn, relocated to Hannibal from Atlanta in 1985. The studio/store on Third Street opened 11 years ago, and it’s been six years in the historic district (Main Street) for Ayers. He also travels the country doing various art fairs.

"Every artist wants to be part of an arts community," Ayers said. "Nobody was promoting this route,? which he described as the ?best section of the Great River Road."

The central location of the three communities is one reason artists should find Route 79 a convenient place to work and live.

"I love this area," Ayers said. "I think it can work."

For a brochure with visitor information for Clarksville, Louisiana and Hannibal or for information about 50 Miles of Art, call 1-800-525-6632.

Contents may not be reproduced in whole or in part unless expressly authorized in writing by AAA Traveler Magazines.