Franklin Arts Center
Updated July 21, 2008
Original Article Posted
July 26, 2006
Art is a chance to see and experience something new. It is an escape, a way to see another side and a chance to fall in love with something unique. It could be as complicated as a hand-made stain glass lamp, or as simple as a flower. Some see it as a picture capturing a moment in time, while others consider it a well planned marketing scheme, decoration of a home or a frame encasing a painting.
Whatever your taste or opinion of what art is, it seems to be difficult to find a location to purchase, observe and converse with many artists all at once. Franklin School, now named Franklin Arts Center, is that place. You can walk through abandoned junior high school halls full of memories and into a place filled with artists of every kind… there is literally something for everyone.
Old Franklin School is located in eastern Brainerd, MN right off of Highway 210, which cuts through the heart of Brainerd, Minnesota. It’s a gorgeous, large, v-shaped, historic building that overlooks a steep bank. Thousands of local teenagers, over seven decades, attended junior high there.
When a new middle school was built across town in 2005, an opportunity presented itself to use a functional, historic space to better the surrounding community. Artspace saw this opportunity and began planning the purchase of Franklin from the school district. The vision was to create an art center containing live/work apartments and studios.
Artspace “is the nation’s leading nonprofit real estate developer for the arts” (Artspace, www.artspaceusa.org, 2006) and is based out of Minneapolis, MN. The company purchases older, historic buildings and raises money, primarily through individual gift donations and grants, to revamp them into live/work apartments and/or studios. Other funding comes from tax credits, First Mortgage, Greater MN Housing Fund, County Housing Funds, and Federal Home Loan Bank (Artspace, www.artspaceusa.org, 2006).
Artspace officially took over ownership of the building on February 15, 2008. They have worked closely with the Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corporation during this process. Artspace has successfully developed many projects in the past and is a well-known, established organization. Their past work may be viewed by visiting the Artspace website.
Since taking over ownership of the building, Artspace has already started a number of renovation and remodeling projects. Those which are most notable from the building exterior include resurfacing the parking lot and replacing the windows in the original 1932 section of the building. The parking lot project included installation of a drainage system and the addition of green space. The green space includes newly planted trees and shrubs; a rain garden is planned to be incorporated later this fall. The windows that are being installed in the building’s center section include grilles, which were typical of windows installed in 1932. Also representative of the orignial 1932 construction, the framing and grilles are green..
Paul Bloom, who was the Community Education Director for the Brainerd School District (ISD181), was the School District’s Representative in the Artspace negotiations. He was the acting Director for the Franklin Arts Center during the transitionary period and was instrumental during the planning process as he helped to ensure a smooth transition. Mary Lou Moudry is the current On-Site Management and is in charge of Day-to Day Operations, keeping the building running smoothly and helping interested parties find out more information about the building and what is offers.
Paul and Mary Lou explained the 3 basic functions to the building. First are 25 live/work apartments. These low-income housing units will occupy most of the space in the 3 floors of the old Franklin School’s right wing. All elements of the existing hallway will be maintained or restored to the reflect the historic aspect of the building: the lockers will remain; the built in cabinets will stay.
However, each space will be distinctive, new and well-planned. All of the walls the previously formed each room were torn down and new walls have been erected, Construction on Lower Level of Franklin Arts Centerwith the exception of walls shared with the hallway. The spaces are attractive, new construction units and are designed to fit into the unique space the building offers. The units include efficiency, 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom units. All apartments will have brand new kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms, and will incorporate features reminiscent of the original construction, such as similar tile, throughout the unit.
“The apartments are more open than the average apartment, so it doesn’t matter if you are a painter, potter or dancer, they’ll have space to live and work in one place.”
The construction began in March 2008 and is slated to be complete by the end of the year. Tenants will be able to move in beginning in January of 2009, if all goes according to plan. An interest list has been established and will serve as a starting point for finding the occupants. All interested parties must pass background checks and other income-based criteria in order to be considered as a tenant. If you are interested in one of the spaces, you can contact Mary Lou to get your name added to the interest list.
The second function is the studios; there are currently forty, with possible additions in the future depending on how construction process goes. The artists who currently occupy the 40 studios are on leases and set their own hours. It is up to the artist to decorate the space, so each room showcases the art and imagination of the individual. The space is a reflection of the artist and their trade.
A unique aspect of what Artspace is doing with Franklin is the variety of uses the school encompasses.
“[Artspace has] some buildings that are studio-only. . . I don’t think they have another one in the country that is half-and-half: part of it is the studios, and part of it is the live/work apartments.”
Most of the studios are occupied as of now, but if you are interested in securing a space for yourself just call Mary Lou. During the process of completing the building there may be more opportunities opening up in the future. The spectrum of artistic talents that occupies the space is large: there are new apartments decorated with wallpaper, furniture and accessories, frame shops, a dance studio, a woodworking shop, and an interior design office, just to name a few.
The third function is the community space. This space (which includes 2 gymnasiums, an auditorium, and the cafeteria) is managed through the School District. Interested community members and groups may rent this space by contacting the District’s Community Education office.
“[Artspace] like[s] to provide spaces for artists, art organizations and art-friendly businesses” which, in turn, benefits the community. It’s not just focused on one type of artist or art business; this is a mixture of everything that is considered art all in one location.
The building is open for the public to stop in and take a look around Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. “People are welcome, but not all the shops or people are open” since each artist set their own schedule. If you are looking for a specific artist, you can always call to setup a good time to meet them.
Most of the tenants make a concerted effort to be present at the Franklin Arts Center’s Second Saturday Community Painting of a city by the seaOpen House. This event is a show case, held from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month. It is an opportunity for you to meet the artists and see their work displayed. Children’s activities are typically organized from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. during the Second Saturday events and, if it can be arranged, additional entertainment such as a music performance also adds to the atmosphere.
The Crossing’s Sales Gallery, which is a juried gallery, is another option for the public to view work by a variety of artists. Often referred to as Studio 114, its location, the CSG is typically open the same hours as the building. Other spaces that often hold exhibits include Gallery 119, the Q Gallery, and Art Matters.
Franklin Arts Center is a successful combination of a historic building used in a positive way. When you visit you will find music filling the school halls over the intercom and artists busy working in their studios. It’s a wonderful experience and the art displayed is an experience all in itself. There is something to suit everyone’s tastes.
Commonly Asked Questions about Franklin Art Center
What exactly is it?
It used to be a junior high school. Now the classrooms are studios; and the other part of the building is being converted into work/live apartments. It looks and feels like a junior high school with halls, lockers, a theatre and a gym. You can see where the old science lab used to be, the workshops, even the bathrooms are the old school bathrooms.
Is it open to the public?
Yes! The Second Saturday Open House (10 am – 4 pm) is a great time to stop by. You can also come in any time Monday – Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Are there going to be artists there?
Most likely many will be there. However, if you are looking for a particular artist, call for their hours.
Is it only local artists?
Yes, all of the artists live and work in the Brainerd Lakes and surrounding area.
Can I just walk into the building?
Yes, it is open to the public for you to stop in and walk around. You can stop in periodically just to see the progress or you can stop in to see the art.
Can I walk into any Studio Door?
As long as it says “Open” and the door is unlocked you can. The Artists work in the studios during the day – so walk-in’s are welcome. Most will have their hours posted or an “Open” sign on the door. If you are unsure knock before going into a studio
Is there Art for sale?
Yes. Many of the studios have art, frames, lamps, pictures and paintings, sculptures, and jewelry for sale that day. You can get custom orders too.
How can I help the cause or donate?
If you would make a gift you can mail it to Franklin Arts Center, c/o Bremer Bank, PO Box 687, Brainerd, MN 56401. Or contact Mary Lou at 218-833-0416.
How can I get a studio or live/work apartment?
Call Mary Lou at 218-833-0416 for details on waiting lists, costs and studio availability.
Franklin Arts Center
1001 Kingwood Street
Brainerd, MN 56401