History of Tri-County Art League

Grace Blaco had been putting flower arrangements in the Citizen's Bank in Belton, MO, for some time.  When she started painting, she hung her second painting in the bank along with the flower arrangements.  The painting measured 18x24, and the price was $10.  A woman by the name of Vivian Patton, whose husband had recently been transferred to Richard's Gebaur Air Force Base, saw Grace's painting.  She contacted her - not to buy the painting, but to form an art club.  Vivian had belonged to an art club at their previous station in Texas.  Finding no art club in this vicinity, she decided to gather a group of artists together.

Vivian and Grace recruited artists from an art show that Byron Redding, of the J.C. Nichol's Company, had at the Red Bridge Shopping Center. By 1966, they had formed the Tri-County Art League, whose name was suggested by Millie Schneider. At the first meeting, there was a general discussion about the purpose of an art club and what they felt could be accomplished.

Among those present that night, officers were elected as follows: President - Vivian Patton, Vice President - Lawrence Rice, Secretary - Clara Leiblie, Treasurer - Grace Blaco, Program Chairman - Millie Schneider, Publicity Chairman - Francis Storer. Other charter members were Shirley Frost, Barbara Smith, Betty Rand, Gene Wall, Rosemary Cobleigh, Terry Bolton, and Karen Westring, for a grand total of thirteen members.

They discussed finding a location for a permanent meeting place and how they could find more members. It was decided that each member was to bring some of their paintings for a "Show and Tell" at the February meeting. Four of the charter members were lost by the next meeting. No one knew what was said that made these four change their minds about joining the club.

The second meeting was held in the home of Barbara Smith on the Base. A constitution and by-laws were approved at this meeting.

There were many suggestions brought forth about a meeting place, but nothing was found that would assure them a permanent spot. The dues were set at $5.00 per year. It was voted that the new artists attending the meetings were to be charted members. These new members were Una Lewis, Phyllis Moinnis, Linda Doak, Ruth Overton, Leon Thompson, and Jim Hodge. This made a total of 19 charter members.

It was decided to elect an "Artist of the Month" from the floor at each meeting. The first to win this distinction was Millie Schneider.

The hostess of the second meeting, Barbara Smith, was the wife of an Air Force T-Sgt, who signed her paintings B.J. Smith. Some of her paintings were green nudes. One was a nude looking at herself in a mirror. Today, you wouldn't think twice about this type of work, but back in 1966, eyes were rolled. Despite the fact that she shocked the group, Barbara was loved by all. When she and her family moved to Taiwan, a surprise going away party was the order of the day. Each member brought some kind of art supply gift in camouflage. The winner of the best camouflaged gift was Jim Hodge, who wrapped t in an egg carton. A good time was had by all. It is possible that Barbara would have been a well-known artist by this time because of her originality, however she died in Taiwan in 1969.

The third meeting was held at the Round-Up Restaurant just south of the bowling alley in Hickman Mills. Each member paid fifty cents and were served pie and coffee. There was a minimum charge of $10.00 per evening, however, so some of the balance was taken out of the treasury. The League bank account stood at sixty or seventy dollars at that time. The meeting place suited the pocketbook, but the lighting was such that if you were sitting five feet away from an artist presenting their work, you couldn't see the painting. It wasn't until November of 1967 that a meeting place was found that met their needs: The Lion's Club in Grandview. They required a $35.00 deposit and $15.00 per meeting night. At this time, membership numbered thirty-three with $182.95 in the treasury. It was during this time at the Lion's Club that they made the first large purchase - a mimeograph machine to print the newsletter. This was arranged by Barbara Page-Stocks. In 1971, the new meeting place was the Ramada Inn. Then, it was the Sheridan East. Each move was made because of a raise in the cost of renting the meeting room. In 1977, Burns-McDonald Company offered the use of their cafeteria for free, however there were no facilities for serving coffee, soft drinks, etc,. There was also a list of rules and regulations a mile long that were to be followed. When the Grandview Bank offered the room in their lower level, it was accepted gladly.

The first art show was at Truman Corners in 1967. Several members came together and constructed ten panels; the rest were rented from the Raytown Art Club. Jim Hodge did most of the construction. The Plaza show was an annual attraction for the League members; the group members were well represented at this show. The Chamber of Commerce office in the Red Bridge Shopping Center was filled with members' paintings. The Chamber secretary sold them and collected money for the artists. It is generally thought that the biggest show that flopped was the one held in the parking lot behind the Western Auto Store in Independence. The fact that it was 102 degrees in the shade kept the same people from being there. Millie Schneider say, "You could shoot off a 44 and not hit anybody but the artists!" That show dampened their ardor for outside summer shows. Members exhibited in shows held at the Landing Shopping Center, Missouri State Fair, Starving Artists in Lees Summit, Cornith Square, City Market, Prairie Village, Ranchmart, Olathe, Platt City, Parkville, The Air Base, Downtown Kansas City Show, Leavenworth, Georgetown, Valentine Shopping Center, etc.

The workshops were held at various places and these get-togethers were well enjoyed by all who attended. Several were held the summer and fall of 1982. These were paid for by the League treasury.

The growth of the League has been amazing to say the least.


  1. I have a painting by sally jackson who was a member of the Tri-County Art League. The # on the back is DE3-8574. I was wounder if anyone can tell me anything about this painting and sally jackson.

  2. My grandmother Clara Leiblie was a founding member of the Tri County Art League, and I remember many of the names you mentioned here.

    Best Wishes for another 50 years!


    Jack Montrose