My Biz: Historic hardware store used to showcase art

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For Priscilla Steele, moving from the East Coast turned out to be far from a case of cultural deprivation.

The New Jersey native has high praise for the Midwest culture and its approach to art and helping main-street communities thrive.

“I feel blessed to be here,” Steele smiled. “I was raised in New Jersey and the attitude was one that the Midwest was a flyover zone and there was a certain condescension, and I tell you what — I could never have done on the East Coast what Craig (Campbell) and I have been able to achieve here.”

The Campbell Steele Gallery, located in the heart of the Marion Uptown District, offers the Corridor area a variety of fine original art that includes ceramics, glass, jewelry, mixed media and paintings.

The gallery also offers space for hosting receptions and corporate and private parties in addition to the live music shows they book for musicians and other performers.

Steele and Campbell bought the 1894 building in 1991, originally the site of the Kendall Hardware store.

“At that time we were working as tech directors, set designers and scene painters for Theatre Cedar Rapids,” Steele recalled. “We bought this building because we wanted to centralize our activity.

“This building has a heritage. The track in the floor where a high ladder was castored to run the entire 110 feet of the building still exists. It was a beautiful hardware store, built in 1894 after this whole row of buildings down here had been destroyed in a fire.”

Steele, who holds an MFA in print making, continues to produce new work, selling her etchings in addition to running the gallery with Campbell.

She and Craig run their business with the assistance of two part-time employees, who Steele said are critical to the daily operation of the business: “This is a tough business. The construction in Marion this summer shut us out a bit, but our customers came back to us this holiday season.”

Competition from other art galleries is welcome as far as Steele is concerned, and she lamented the demise of the long-running Corner House Gallery to the art community for the area, touting the importance and presence overall that individual small business owners contribute to the community.

“I realize times change,” she said, “but if you believe in art being available and important to your community, each one of these privately owned galleries is striving to fill that perceived need through the entrepreneurial efforts of the owner. The loss of the Corner House is significant.

“Each one of the shop owners here in uptown Marion feels as strongly about what they are doing in their own shop as we do here,” she added. “There is a sense of community here.”

Owner: Priscilla Steele and Craig Campbell

Company: Campbell Steele Gallery

Address: 1064 Seventh Ave., Marion

Phone: (319) 373-9211


Know a manager or company in business for at least a year we should consider for “My Biz”? Contact business editor Michael Chevy Castranova at

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