Driving south on I Avenue and west on Main Street, Sandra Howard experienced an unmistakable case of deja vu.


"It felt like coming home,"said Howard, who serves as president of the Artists of the High Desert club.


It's been three years since Howard's organization, then called the Hesperia Art Club, moved from its 900-square-foot location at 11th Avenue and Main Street into a snug, but much less expensive, 800-square-foot room in the Victor Valley Museum.


"It feels really wonderful being back in Hesperia. We always appreciated being here."


Located in Midtown Square, which is anchored by Kmart and Albertsons, the club's new digs are much larger (1,400 square feet) and more accessible and visible to the public. Front windows let in ample light, and the new location has a kitchen, framing area, art reference library and rear parking for members.


"We couldn't ask for a better location," Howard said.


In spring of 2007, the club's landlord raised their rent, forcing them to explore other options. The Victor Valley Museum, which is located on Apple Valley Road at Jess Ranch, invited the club to relocate into an unused classroom, and eventually the club changed its name to Artists of the High Desert.


Struggling to stay afloat due to low donations, the museum was recently taken over by the county, which chipped in a reported $250,000 on facility updates. With the museum's future seemingly secure, the art club was welcome to stay put. But the organization's leadership believed it was time to start anew.


'MORE INCLUSIVE'


"We were very comfortable there," Howard said, "But we needed to be more inclusive."


"Nobody knew we were there," said club vice-president Rhonda Limbacher. "We did lose some members with that move [to the museum], but we're hoping to get them back."


Hesperia resident Viki Stout, who has been a member for three years, is thrilled with the move.


"It's really convenient for me," she said. "I just walk here. It's going to be easy to tell my friends where I'm at."


And for Stout, the art has become a sort of therapy that gives her peace of mind and relaxation.


"Being a member of the art club is the best decision I've made,"she said.


"We're building up the momentum," Howard said. "We're getting back on our feet. The prices haven't changed. We're still doing what we're doing, and the public is always welcome."


The Artists of the High Desert, located at 16930 Main St., Suite E in Hesperia, offers painting classes in watercolor, oil and other media for adults and children. The club supports a gallery and offers various events, including Fall Into Art Festival, which will be held next November. Classes are $8 for members and $10 for non-members. For more information, call 760-947-4881.