The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 12, 2013

Waseca Arts Center is moving up

By Amanda Dyslin
Free Press Staff Writer

WASECA — Saturday was the last day of cramming art exhibits, a gift shop and an office into the tiny Waseca Art Center space at 410 State St.

The center closed its doors for the last time at 2 p.m. And Pat Beckmann won’t miss it.

“Totally ready (to leave),” she said.

The old place was way too small, she said. That’s part of the incentive to get out of there. But also, the Waseca Arts Council’s new place — which will open its doors Feb. 1 — is pretty great.

Beckmann can’t wait to open it up to the public.

“It’s just really beautiful,” she said.

The Waseca Art Center and the Waseca Arts Council have been a provider of the arts in the Waseca community for more than 35 years. The organization began in 1976 as a traveling exhibit, quickly transitioning into a storefront and then finally to the old building on State Street.

Beckmann said, even when the organization first moved in, the place was too small.

“It was a very pleasant space with some nice skylights and the location was perfect, so we took it anyway,” Beckmann told The Free Press in 2010, when the search was underway for a new space.

For a number of years, staff have been on the lookout for an adequate place to move, even considering building an addition onto the 410 State St. building.

They had their eyes on a two-story family-owned home a couple of years ago built in 1916, but the $429,000 price tag was too hefty.

So instead, they bought the former JCPenney building at 200 State St. North in November 2011 for an undisclosed sum.

The family-owned house would have been great because it was move-in ready, Beckmann said. Their new place at 200 State St. North, built in the 1890s, needed a lot of work.

“Basically, we gutted the whole building,” she said.

A year of renovations had to take place, which included new insulation and getting the building up to code in various capacities.

But now that the work is done, Beckmann is very pleased with the results. The center has a two-story building with a full basement for all of its storage, exhibit and office needs.

Funds to support the purchase and renovation for the new center came from the Waseca Area Foundation and from more than 95 families, individuals and businesses. Special purchases for the building have come from Brown Printing Company and the Carl and Verna Schmidt Foundation of Rochester.

The total cost is in the hundreds of thousands, but Beckmann said the Council has yet to release the official total.

Beckmann said they will be celebrating at the opening gala, on Feb. 1, with a ribbon-cutting at 8 p.m., Champagne, live music and hors d’oeuvres. There will also be 15 raffles scattered throughout the building.

Beckmann said part of the center’s permanent art collection will be on display, as will the complete art gift shop. A lounge area with a memorial fireplace and piano are new touches to the main floor.

On the second floor, classes will be offered in the Kent and Diane Schultz Auditorium. Concerts and special events will take place there too.

The center still plans to have exhibits running year-round, just like at the old place.