Construction has begun at the St. Paul and District Arts Foundation to convert their front space into an art gallery.

The foundation supports several different visual and performing arts disciplines. The addition of a permanent gallery at its Maggie Porozni Arts Foundation Building will be completed by the end of June with help from a federal grant.

Foundation treasurer Valerie Pratch says the space will offer opportunities for local artists and visiting exhibits.

“Our vision was it would be spectacular if there was another space that was built within the building,” she said. “Somebody could operate as an artist-in-residence, and part of their job would be to take care of the gallery and bring in exhibits.”

She said the exhibits would include local artists, as well as artists from the region and beyond.

“It would become an educational art exhibit and a place to display local works of art,” she said. “And then [an opportunity] for tourists and local people to support local artists.”

Pratch said art has a power to communicate and to educate, and this provides a benefit to the community.

“I think that there’s a great benefit, specifically when you look at the educational component and how arts can express different things that are happening in our world, on all kinds of levels,” she said.

“We try to keep that educational component as high as we can within our community. Sometimes it’s hard to maintain, but overall, the idea behind this is to be able to have a focal point in our community that’s open on a regular basis, that you can come in and enjoy art and be able to see how others view the world.”

The Foundation also believes there is a tourism benefit to having arts spaces, especially right downtown. There are people who visit locations just to view the galleries and the public art; and there are visitors who may be in town for other reasons but whose enjoyment and appreciation of the community is enhanced by the exhibits or performances they may see while they visit.

The front room of the Maggie Porozni building has housed art works and served as a workshop and studio space as well as a reception area. With the development of the gallery, Pratch said the room will
now serve a specific artistic purpose.

Drawings of the finished art gallery space at the Maggie Porozni building in St. Paul. The work is scheduled to be finished by the end of June. SUBMITTED