“I can’t ever remember not wanting to draw and paint,” says Minette Richardson in the biographical material posted amongst her paintings in Down the Street Art Gallery.
Her first piece was exhibited when she was only 5. “My teacher thought it was good and put it in a show,” she said.
It wasn’t until 2006 — with the opening of Down the Street Art Gallery — that she again had work on exhibit ... at least conventional works of art. As a hairdresser, most of her working life, her canvas was the hair of her clients.
A resident of the Payson area for 21 years, Minette, as she prefers to be called — and as she signs her work — had a salon for 17 years. Everyone just called it Minette’s or Minette’s Place, but the official business name was Minette’s Place for Cuts & Stuff.
“I wanted to just call it Minette’s, but the business license people said that wasn’t specific enough.”
She said she discovered Payson was the place she wanted to be after visiting here and meeting a man named Michael. First she had to follow another desire to go to California though. She was there less than a year when she decided to come back to the Rim Country and marry the man she met here, Michael Richardson. Between Minette and her husband, they had four children, all of them attending Payson schools.
It was when her oldest was a baby Minette enjoyed the opportunity of making a living with her art. She worked as a graphic artist for several years in the 1980s, with her home as her base of operation so she could take care of her baby.
Her children grew up and over the years she became involved in civic activities.
“I was part of the first group of Main Street merchants that tried to become organized,” she said. Minette has been a diehard Main Street booster for as long as she and her husband have owned the historic property known for years as the Grandma Platt house, which is more than 100 years old, built by the family of some of the earliest merchants in the area — the Chilsons.
She became active in the Main Street Program in 2001 and eventually the Main Street group that initiated the First Friday events. That group is officially the Main Street Merchants Guild and she and Cindy Kofile are its promotions committee.
Through her work in the assorted Main Street groups, Minette has become involved in the work of the Green Valley Redevelopment Area and the town’s design review committee. She is the vice chair of the GVRA and is helping the design review group with the Main Street guidelines it is preparing for adoption by the town council.
“Since 2001 through 2008, $54 million in private investments have gone into Main Street, fixing old buildings, in new construction and in opening and expanding businesses,” she said.
“If you can’t find it on Main Street, you probably don’t need it,” she said — except for food and there is talk of that changing in the not too distant future.
The Main Street programs have grown, creating viability for all the businesses on the historic road and a network of owners that help one another out, she said. The programs have opened doors and lines of communication and have led to a united group.
The Michigan native stays busy with her Main Street work, but she is just as devoted to her art and helping other artists.
“The most rewarding aspect of my art comes down to the freedom of expression it gives me and having someone else appreciate it,” Minette said.
There are also rewards working with a co-op of 18 or so people in the Down the Street Art Gallery.
“We’re almost like family and that’s one of the most enjoyable things about it.
“There is a tremendous amount of effort that people put into the gallery beyond their own art. I am self-taught and I have also learned a lot from the other artists,” she said.
The help and critiquing she has received from her fellow co-op members has given her confidence and taught her ways to streamline her creative process, she said.
Visitors to the gallery, at 703 W. Main, may not run into Minette there, but take a look at her bright, big and bold work and you will get a sense of the woman’s positive, sometimes spicy, perspective on the world.