A?new home for the arts

When the Granite Falls Riverfront Revitalization wanted to sell a historic building in the downtown area, the area arts council stepped in.

The Granite Area Arts Council (GAAC) recently bought the historic KK Berge building in downtown Granite Falls.

“It’s a beautiful space,” said Peg Furshong, vice president of the Granite Falls Arts Council.

In August, Furshong said, the Granite Falls Riverfront Revitalization organization, which had restored the KK Berge building, no longer wanted to manage the building and was going to put it up for sale. The arts council had become a non-profit organization in April 2009 and had started scheduling art exhibits at the KK Berge in January 2012.

“The exhibits have featured both local and regional artists and have grown in popularity,” Furshong said in a news release.

“People have enjoyed hearing the artist talks from the artists and seeing works from our community and beyond,” said GAAC president Tamara Isfeld. “We have had fibers, ceramics, photography, sculpture and painting.” She said the arts council’s mission is to connect people to art not only from Granite Falls but the surrounding communities as well.

Before having a building, GAAC offered classes and events in several places, Isfeld said.

“This made it difficult for the public to know the location of the event we were at or even know what the arts council is about,” Isfeld said.

“Numerous Bob Ross painting classes were held in the basement of the nursing home, as there were enough tables and a large enough space for over a dozen people,” said Bev Tellefsen, member of GAAC. “Some of the residents were able to take part as well. We used space below the library at the Senior Center for jewelry making, as well as doing a project on making gazing balls. We also did basket weaving, zentangle and wood carving in the space that was available. Now we have a place that doesn’t require us to first find available space as we have our own.”

Isfeld started summer art workshops and a Kid’s Art Camp in 2011. Furshong said the summer program continues to grow, and the arts council is offering four different sessions with painting, pottery, Kid’s Camp, theater and music.

In fall of 2012, the arts council had its first membership drive and received a lot of support.

“The support from the community has given GAAC a solid foundation to begin writing grants and continuing to grow community support for the program,” Furshong said in the release. “While GAAC was not necessarily ready to take on a building, the idea of a building that had been a community project and asset potentially going to a private individual for development was hard to swallow.”

So the GAAC board started to meet, trying to find a way to buy the building. The organization was able to find four different investors that would loan it money to buy the building and repay the loans. Furshong said in the release that the only revenue GAAC generates is from donations, membership, commission from gallery sales and ticket sales from the Winter Fest production.

GAAC bought the building at the beginning of October.

“We would like to keep it a community asset,” Furshong said about GAAC buying the building.

Sarina Otaibi of the Granite Falls Riverfront Revitalization said GAAC was the right group for the building.

“We thought they were the ideal buyer because we want to keep the arts growing in the community,” Otaibi said.

What this means for the arts council, said Isfeld, is that it can build long-range programming to offer art opportunities from the KK Berge.

“Having a home people know where to go to get information, buy tickets, see the latest gallery showing and have a sense that art is important to the Granite area,” Isfeld said.

Tellefsen said the community can find GAAC a lot easier as being on the main street keeps it visible to all.

“We find many tourists and people driving through town shopping as well,” Tellefsen said. “It is fun to be working when people from out of state stop and visit.”

Furshong said that the Granite Falls Chamber of Commerce and CURE (Cleaning Up the River Environment) will continue to rent space.

Furshong said GAAC also plans to turn the upper floor of the building into a residential apartment. Isfeld said the main floor will be used for art classes for all ages and the gallery and a mosaic design will be added to the outside of the building.

The kid’s summer camp has doubled in size and is looking for more teachers and times to accommodate more kids, Isfeld said. GAAC just received a foundation grant of $500 to help subsidize families who need financial assistance for the camp.

“They learn about painting, ceramics, drawing, other artists’ work and have a gallery opening of their work,” Isfeld said. “We have grown to where other small communities are looking to us to see if we can combine efforts and asking how can we better help serve a larger community. We have expanded our class offerings, looking to start a performance series.”

“People who don’t necessarily think of themselves as artistic have many good ideas that they can share,” Tellefsen said. “Everyone has some creativity in them whether they recognize it or not.”

GAAC continues to be involved in the area community and has started offering a craft during the Granite Falls downtown businesses’ “Third Thursday.”

Volunteers staff the gallery from 1-4 p.m. Monday-Friday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Furshong said.

“We’re hoping our hours expand during the week,” Furshong said.