As told by Thea Rood (Co-Owner 2010 - 2015)
The Art Center started off, amusingly enough, in a strip-mall at Sierra College and Douglas Blvd. It was 1994, and a 20-something Greg Bodie had casually introduced his friend’s mother to his own.
Saskia Covington was trained as a nurse, but had an eclectic background—raised in Holland and South Africa—and a deep passion for art. In fact, as a local mother—with two young children—she was troubled by the lack of true art instruction in public schools. Meanwhile, Brenda Bodie (“Ms. B”), an artist and credentialed teacher, had recently returned from a 3-year family stint in Brussels for her husband’s company, and was at loose ends career-wise.
The women’s meeting was eventful—and from their partnership, the Art Center was born, quickly becoming an unqualified success. “We had a 1-year, 5-year and 10-year plan,” says Ms. B. “And within the first year, we’d met our five year goals.” They were also quickly outgrowing their store-front space, and Saskia was constantly on the look-out for something bigger.
Then one day, driving home from the grocery store, she noticed a “For Sale” sign at the old Joe Rodgers' farm, a property she’d long had her eye on. The Rodgers’ family had sold it, and it was being held—in increasing disrepair—by a group of developers who hoped to have it zoned commercial. Placer County—still sleepy and determinedly rural at that time—turned down the application, however, and the developers wanted out.
Saskia bought it, and immediately gutted the farm house. The porch became an office and waiting room, the living and dining rooms became the largest art room, the bedrooms made for two more. Within a few months, and after some wrangling of her own with the county, the new Art Center opened.
With the larger space, the Center began to offer more classes—for pre-schoolers, home-schoolers—and added music lessons as well. The kitchen nook became a music room, and Saskia’s husband, Kirk—a contractor—built another music room off the back of the house, and eventually two more in the barn.
Greg taught art classes at the Center throughout this time, eventually settling into cartooning, with a loyal following, and the morning pre-school classes. He also began working the office in the afternoons, answering the phones and, in many ways, becoming the “face” of the Center.
the new generation
In December, 2007, however, Ms. B, by then a happy grandmother of two, decided to retire. And two-and-a-half years later, Saskia did too—she and Kirk are currently traveling the world together. But Greg was still on-site, along with his business partner and co-owner, Thea Rood.
Greg and Thea met in 2000, when Thea’s then 4-year-old daughter, Hadley, began attending the Art Center. The Rood family eventually became “regulars,” with both Hadley and her younger brother Nash taking weekly music lessons, as well as art classes and workshops. For years, Art Center staff joked, “You’re here every day—it’s like you work here.” So in September, 2009, Thea indeed joined the staff. A credentialed teacher and freelance writer, she took over the early shift in the office, wrote the fall and spring catalogs and handled marketing.
The transition to new ownership was lightening quick in the spring of 2010—Saskia and Kirk fielded a lease offer on their Loomis home with the only caveat being they had 30 days to move out, and they decided the time was right to start their retired life. Everyone was confident, however, the new partnership would be as good as the original one.
And in fact, Greg and Thea continued the programs the Art Center was known and loved for. They also worked with local public and charter schools, customizing art field trips and classes. Finally, they took the Art Center into the electronic age, with Facebook and Twitter, as well as mass e-mails to customers and a revamped website.
“We love this place, and have an amazingly talented staff,” said Thea. “It can only really get better. And it was pretty great to start with.”