Guest Column: We’re here: Update on Historic Bessen building

Published 9:00 am Saturday, November 3, 2018

Stairwell News by Susanne Crane

Susanne Crane is an artist/educator currently working on a local restoration project in the historic district.

Folks, there is a successful business incubator happily percolating with creativity in the downtown that you may not know about. It’s not well-known as of yet, but it has had been churning out successes since 2012. Several people have requested that I write about it, so here goes.

Susanne Crane

The place has generated six books, written, edited and published right here in Albert Lea. Three were written by local children. Another is a book of poetry paired with paintings, and yet another was the result of a sizable artist grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council (SEMAC). The latest accompanies the Metamorphosis exhibition in the gallery, sponsored by Target Corp.

The gallery is notable due to the fact that five of it’s recent groundbreaking exhibitions have been picked up by other galleries. These exhibitions will go to The Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault, The Owatonna Art Center, and MIA.  One has already had the honor of travelling to the MacNider Museum in Mason City.

The building has helped launched Bragen Rights Photography and Mark Kness Art Gallery, which have expanded into larger spaces downtown. It is currently home to Studio 1, the Freeborn County Arts Initiative gallery, Christian Chiropractic, Kid’s College and It’s Worth It Massage and Wellness Studio, now in a larger, newly remodeled space in the building.

This year has been a particularly good year for the building ,which received a grant for electrical and some window restoration from Worth County Development Authority. It has also become a higher profile project due to friends helping whenever and however possible.

What and where is this place, you may ask?

It is known by many names. It is the Historic Bessesen Opera Palace, the old YWCA club rooms, the old Rivoli, the Art Center and, most recently, the Arts Initiative. It is at 224 S. Broadway, next to Addie’s Floral (best neighbor ever!) and across from Brick Furniture.

Come check out this gem and meet some of the people involved! You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

The next show (Melting the Ice) begins Nov. 6 and features some local artists. All exhibits and events are free to the public. Bring your family or a friend. We’ll be happy to show you around.

Now you know.