It’s been nearly a year since the Southeastern Minnesota Visual Artists (SEMVA) was forced from its location at the Peace Plaza due to the escalating costs of doing business downtown.
Now, 10 months after the gallery’s closure, a reunion of sorts is being held. Thanks to an invitation from Crossings in Zumbrota, the work of 19 SEMVA artists is on display at its gallery with a reception of the artists planned for Saturday from 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.
Andrea Gates, Crossings’ exhibit coordinator, said she was saddened when she heard of SEMVA’s closing and approached the group’s leadership about hosting an exhibit of its artists.
“I thought it was a really important fixture in downtown Rochester,” Gates said. “It was an important symbol of that the fact the arts are important to Rochester.”
SEMVA leaders say they are still looking for a new home. Several locations have been explored, but none so far has panned out, including the Armory (former home of the Rochester Senior Center), Chateau Theatre and Rochester Art Center.
“There’s nothing available that’s reasonable downtown,” said Andy Westreich, SEMVA’s past president. “Certainly there’s nothing available that has good access to it.”
SEMVA officials are also looking at the possibility of locating outside of the city. Current SEMVA President Larry Ricker said a site along South Broadway is also under consideration. But while the building is “really nice inside,” the foot traffic isn’t nearly the same as that of the old location and other parties are also looking at it as well.
SEMVA officials say they are resigned to the fact that whatever they find will likely never be as good as the old Peace Plaza site. There is little doubt that SEMVA’s ability to thrive and succeed as a nonprofit was linked to its downtown site, they say.
The Peace Plaza site had been home for the SEMVA gallery for more than two decades. And during that time, more than $2 million flowed back to area artists from work sold at the gallery. The gallery benefited from its proximity to Mayo Clinic, as 75 percent of its receipts came from out-of-towners, officials say.
“One of the reasons we did exist for so long was because of the location that we had,” Ricker said. “We had foot traffic from clinic visitors and people who worked at the clinic. But it’s painfully obvious that we’re not going to find another location like that.”
Today, the former SEMVA site, owned by Mac’s Restaurant owner George Psomas, has been divided into three store outlets with tenants in two of them, Exquisite Leather and Luggage and BB Makeup Cosmetic Bar. A third store, Love from Minnesota, has plans to open in November.
Ricker said there is some debate among members about whether SEMVA will be able to survive in the long term.
“There are some artists in SEMVA that say if we don’t get another venue like that that we won’t survive. There are others that are optimistic that we can make a go of it somewhere close by,” Ricker said. “I wouldn’t say the future looks rosy, but we’re pushing on.”
If you go
What: SEMVA Reunion exhibit.
When: Reception 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5. Exhibit through Sunday, Nov. 27.
Where: Crossings at Zumbrota, 320 East Avenue, Zumbrota.
Gallery is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.