Perhaps one of Texas County’s better-kept secrets is a museum in downtown Licking that features a host of displays of both artistic and historic nature.

The Texas County Museum of Art and History opened in 2003, and retired elementary school art teacher Ellen Reynolds has been the facility’s curator since the beginning.

“I’m having fun in here,” Reynolds said. “We like to say we have art and artifacts from around the world and through the ages.”

Hanging on the museum’s walls are more than 80 pieces of fine art, many produced by old masters with familiar names. Other displays include about 20 glass cases loaded with antique and ancient items from all parts of the planet, with contents ranging from ancient Egyptian, to native American, Asian, Old West and even items related to space and NASA. Also on display are old photos of Licking, several pieces of antique furniture donated by local residents, and much, much more.

“People are amazed when they see everything we have here,” Reynolds said.

The museum owes its existence to Ron Rennick, a former Licking resident who now lives in Florida and owns the two old storefronts it occupies. Rennick is now in the art auction and antique business and frequently provides items to the facility.

“He doesn’t charge us rent and he covers the cost of utilities,” Reynolds said. “Isn’t that a wonderful set up?”

The museum is also a gathering place for local artisans, many of whom go there to work on projects and some of whom periodically conduct workshops there for anyone interested in gleaning from their knowledge, experience and talent. Sign-up sheets for the workshops are laid out on a table near the entrance.

One of the regulars at the museum is Licking resident Margie Moll, who specializes in metal jewelry and art. She said the facility is an important part of the county’s art community

“This is a place for like-minded people to hang out and share their enthusiasm and encourage each other,” Moll said. “You have to have an environment like this for people like us to want to come to.”

Reynolds said the museum has a membership roster of about 45 people, and that several youth and adult groups from around the county have stopped in for tours.

“We’d like to have more school classes and adult groups come and see what’s here,” she said. “There’s really something to interest almost anyone – from kindergarteners to senior citizens – and we’re very handicapped accessible.”

A room in the back of the museum has been converted by the Friends of the Licking Library into a sizable library featuring thousands of books available for a free will donation.

The museum annually hosts a show in November, and individual artists sometimes use it to host their own shows. Annual fundraising events take place on the days of Licking’s annual Christmas parade and PRCA Rodeo parade. A “cookies by the pound” fundraiser also occurs each year at Christmastime.

The Texas County Museum of Art and History is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays from March through November. It reopens each year with an event in early March featuring live music and art displays.

For more information, call the museum on Monday or Tuesday at 573-674-4799, or Reynolds at 573-674-3526.

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