As Caroline Henry and Pam Bechill were hanging art this week, they took time to stop and admire each piece.
"Look at these," Bechill said while holding a trio of small purple gourds in her hand.
The women, both in their early 60s, are eager to show visitors around their small gallery.
Eager to see their wide-eyed love of art reflected in visitors' faces. Eager for them to buy art.
The show, which will start today and run until July 21, will feature art of different media by Art Center members. Titled "The Last Picture Show," it will be the last at the Art Center's Church Street location.
The Lodi Community Art Center, a group with roots in Lodi that reach back to the 1930s, will be forced out of its home on South Church Street after being unable to keep up with its monthly rent.
Members hope a generous landlord will allow them to occupy one of the vacant buildings Downtown, where they say the increased foot traffic will help their sales.
This stint of homelessness is the latest in a series of relocations that has afflicted the center since it moved from its original studio at 141/2 Pine St. in 1962. The building's owners, Alby Lind and his wife, donated the space to the organization until they sold it in 1962.
Since then, the Art Center has had to struggle to come up with the funds to support their ambitious goals.
"We have champagne taste on a beer budget," said Bechill, a member and former vice-president of the center.
The center's activities reflect its dual foci, art exhibition and instruction.
The Spring Art Annual, now held at Woodbridge Winery, has showcased work from local and a handful of out-of-state artists for nearly half a century.
The center also puts on the First Friday Art Hop, during which art enthusiasts can jump from the library to other Downtown businesses that display local art, and mans a booth at the Farmers' Market on Thursdays.
On top of that, the center offers a variety of educational opportunities, such as its fourth Wednesday art demonstrations at the library and a variety of classes that it hosts at its soon-to-be former home on Church Street.
Members are confident that those learning opportunities will be available to the community while the center searches for another space.
"You just have to be a little more creative," Bechill said.
Funds to pay for the Art Center's rent come from donations and member fees, as well as art sales, which have been especially sluggish as of late.
Bechill suspects that people tend to buy art on vacation, but rarely do they turn to their hometown to satisfy their taste for the beautiful.
The center's small gallery exhibits a range of media, from glass work to water color paintings to colored pencil drawings. Prices range from $2 to $400.
"It's really top notch," Bechill said.
Still, Caroline Henry, who volunteers at the center, said some days she'll close up shop without seeing a single person all day.
Members hope that a move to Downtown Lodi will provide them with the foot traffic they need to boost their sales.
But Bechill realizes that with Downtown places comes Downtown price tags.
"We're looking for somebody to take pity on us," Bechill said.
Ideally, the center's members would like to inhabit one of the vacant Downtown spaces for a nominal fee until its owners can find a renter with bigger pockets.
They once had a similar arrangement with the owner of Lakewood Mall, who let the center jump from spot to spot as the mall filled up until they had to move out in 2002.
Art Center president Chris Kralj said he has discussed the relocation with city officials, who say they are open to helping the center find a spot.
"I really think we could help with the revitalization of Downtown," Kralj said.