*We spent many days in the spring and summer traveling and exploring our way through Western Iowa. We had the pleasure to experience so many places and communities we’ve never been to before. Malvern, Iowa was one of those fulfilling areas we were able discover this year. Our stay at the Art Church was complimentary and the views expressed in this blog post are of my own. Now let’s Gallivant!
Think of all the memories you may have from the church hall. Mine are filled with potlucks, bake sales, family gatherings, post-mass refreshments, receptions, fundraisers, funerals, weddings, dances, and the occasional community play or concert. Ham salad sandwiches, homemade pie, coffee and rolls, gossip, catching up, the mixture of 30 styles of perfume in the air, laughter, icy lemonade, and crock-pots ticking from the heat they’re producing. All-in-all for me, the church hall has been filled with very positive moments and people I wish would cross my mind more often. In all those times I never once thought to myself, “You know what would be nice? If they turned this space into a local option for lodging. Now grab me that last bear claw before our uncle decides to go for thirds!” A man named Zack Jones saw an opportunity to do just that. A shuttered church no longer. It’s now simply and beautifully known as the Art Church. He may have lunged for a sugary bear claw at some point too.
“Left from Main Street, up the brick road, and you’ll see the church on your left.” Those are the best instructions you can get when visiting small-town America. Simple yet imaginative. Especially when you know your place of lodging is going to be what was a bygone church. What will Main Street look like? How will the brick road sound under my tires? What will be the first thing that will inspire me when I get to Malvern? Both inside and out, the Art Church had the whiff of innovation and hard work which is exactly what every community needs to push forward into the 21st century and the next one!
Below the main level will be your Airbnb accommodations and the works of art don’t stop for one moment. Not only can Zack turn a church or a piece of canvas into a living breathing piece of beautiful art, but he can repurpose just about anything into something that will land right into his talented wheelhouse.
My favorite way to Gallivant is when I can check-in to my room and remain on foot as much as possible. That’s exactly how my time at the Art Church was here in Malvern. Main Street and its restaurants, shops, bars, ice cream, and beautiful sunset were in plain view from the front lawn of the church. And for those of you that like to stay on your bicycles, this is the Airbnb for you as well. The Wabash Trace goes right through town and Malvern makes an excellent hub for your days on the trail.
Civic pride is always comforting to see anywhere you go. Small towns all over Iowa are trying combinations of ideas to revitalize their community no matter what the size is. There’s more Airbnb choices popping up all the time, and many of them are operated by folks that could have opened one anywhere but chose a property that has more of a personal significance to it. Zack could have opened an art studio anywhere as well. He chose to do it all here in his hometown and be a part of a Malvern that’s welcoming more visitors and new citizens to town. There’s plenty of folks in southwest Iowa that have a modern vision for their beloved homes and businesses and I can’t wait to be back to Mills County and revisit all of them again. Keep up the great work over there! It’s a big pie and you all know how to offer a beautiful slice of it to folks who want to enjoy this wonderful and scenic region of Iowa.
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