Early in 2008, a group of artists asked Artspace to help them determine the feasibility of creating a new “fire arts center” in an abandoned auto repair shop in South Minneapolis. At first Artspace provided pro bono consulting services, but when the artists realized they lacked the expertise to redevelop the property, they asked Artspace to assume a larger role. Artspace agreed not only to develop the facility but also to own it for up to 10 years, until the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center, the new nonprofit organization formed by the artists, is stable. Fire arts include sculptural welding, blacksmithing, glass slumping, jewelry making, bronze casting and other art forms that involve flame or high heat. The Fire Arts Center is a home for these and related industrial and fine art forms. The Center offers classes, provides studio space that artists can rent and operates a gallery.
This $1 million “boutique” project exemplifies Artspace’s commitment to building better communities through the arts. The structure, built in 1916 as a silent movie theater, was dilapidated. Now it is filling a unique niche in the Twin Cities’ arts scene. At the same time, it has infused new energy into its neighborhood, inspiring galleries and restaurants to open nearby.