GUTTENBERG, Iowa | At Guttenberg Creativity Center, creative expression is the key to almost everything.
It is the main feature at the facility, where children come after school for free art workshops. It also is a fundraising mechanism for the center, with proceeds from sold art pieces and organized events used to purchase art supplies for the kids.
More than anything, Cindy Olsen believes that creative expression is essential to developing any healthy life. That's why she founded the center 10 years ago.
"Creativity is the ultimate form of self-expression," she said. "It's especially important for kids to have an outlet for self-expression. I want to be able to provide that through this organization."
For the past decade, the center has offered free after-school programming for children in fourth grade through high school. These programs range from wheel pottery classes to art history lessons to stop-motion animation workshops.
All of these programs are entirely supported through fundraising by Olsen and her handful of volunteers.
Olsen, a licensed mental health counselor, founded the center in an attempt to provide more after-school opportunities for Guttenberg children that weren't in sports.
"Kids who weren't in sports had limited resources," she said. "Creativity is self-expression, and I thought it was important that they have access to fine arts."
In the first year of opening the facility, money was spent both by Olsen and her friends and family to renovate the old building at 214 S. River Park Drive.
Since then, Olsen said she has spent more of her own money on the project, but none of the money raised has ever gone back to her.
"It's a pay-it-forward," she said. "So many people have helped me in life. This is my give-it-back."
Over time, the center has grown and changed. It now consistently works to celebrate and bring exposure to local artists. It also works to give teens early job and management opportunities.
Olsen said a recently started cafe at the center is completely run by high school students. She hopes to one day allow students to run the entire center.
"My hope is that I can pass it on, eventually," Olsen said.
Kim Gau, a volunteer board member for the creativity center, said the center and Olsen's work on it have been a vital resource for the community in the past 10 years.
"It serves a great purpose for the city," Gau said. "We're lucky to have it."
Olsen said she hopes to continue to develop and grow the center to serve as a creative outlet for Guttenberg's children. Part of her creative expression is thinking of new ways to engage with kids.
"I'm passionate about this," Olsen said. "I want it to be there for kids in the future."