A lengthy art project

They talked about time and hurdles and passion. Each speaker related at least one story of seemingly impossible difficulties that were overcome. The end result of years of dedicated work was celebrated at Friday’s grand opening of Artspace Lofts in downtown Minot.

“We never gave up, but we never knew if we would get the financing together for it,” said a smiling Orlin Backes, Minot, chairman of the Artspace Advisory Committee. “The main reason was the stock market collapse of 2007. It caused severe financing problems for this project.”

It took more than 10 years from the time the project was first proposed to when it became a reality. Artspace Lofts, a four-story building containing 34 apartment units and several businesses, became the first newly constructed building in downtown Minot in more than 30 years. The cost was $9.4 million, much of it obtained by grants, donations and cooperative banking.

“Every time a door closed we found a way to open a few more and a couple of windows. It really was a community partner project in every sense of the word,” said Heidi Kurtze, Minneapolis, vice-president of properties for Artspace. “We think this wonderful building will stand the test of time. It is filled with committed residents and businesses that care about this community.”

While Artspace Lofts is designed to provide affordable housing for aspiring artists, it also showcases local art-related endeavors such as the Children’s Music Academy and Heart of the Turtle gallery. Additionally, resident artists are encouraged to give back to the community.

“Affordable housing is a gift to the community. We ask the artist residents to think about that and ask them what they are going to give back,” explained Stacy Mickelson, Minneapolis, vice-president of government relations for Artspace. “It’s larger than this building. We ask them to be sure to spill out and give back to the community that gave you this gift.”

Mickelson added that he tells the story about Minot all across the country as a “place that really had a can-do attitude and got it done.”

Photographer Katie Nesdahl is one of the artists living in an Artspace Lofts apartment. She spoke to a crowd gathered for the grand opening, saying that she is grateful for the opportunities presented by Artspace. Nesdahl explained that living in close proximity to others with similar interests provides instant access to creative resources.

“There are people who are passionate about the same things as I am, about growing together as a community so that we can enhance the community around us,” said Nesdahl.

Kelly Lindquist, Minot Artspace president, was among the guest speakers at Friday’s grand opening. After the program Lindquist said he was “overwhelmed” by the beautiful speeches and the warmth felt for Artspace. He also said he is looking forward to seeing the impact the project will have on the community in the coming years.

Backes had praise for the quality of the building and the artistic abilities of its residents but, like Lindquist, was looking into the future in terms of what Artspace will mean to the city of Minot.

“You won’t see it today, but what those artists will do over the next five years is where you’ll see Minot change, particularly downtown,” said Backes.