Parked just a few blocks west of the Capitol on University Avenue, Springboard for the Arts’ new home is set to open this week with a celebration.
Springboard was based in Lowertown St. Paul for nearly 30 years and began its drive to move to the new location about a decade ago. The arts organization became interested in the building, which once housed a Saxon ford, when it was looking for a site for an artist project along the Green Line. The empty parking lot was tempting.
“It was a first glimpse, there was something of value to this place,” Laura Zabel, executive director of Springboard, said earlier last week. The $5.25 million project was completed this year.
The cracked asphalt parking lot at 262 University Avenue is now easily paved and surrounded by a wide green space and colorful murals. There is a grain silo-like tank in one corner that collects rainwater from the roof to keep that greenspace green. The squat concrete brick car dealership building features a vibrant green two-story addition on the west side. Zabel calls this a model for reusing “unpleasant and unwanted spaces”.
Originally called Resources and Consulting for the Arts when it began as part of United Arts in the late 1970s, Springboard was created to support and connect artists and arts organizations and build their professional skills. was created to help.
Springboard acquired the defunct car dealership in 2018, but before designing the remodel, the organization invited groups to use the building to help decide what the community needed, Zabel says. More than 200 groups and 6,000 people used the building for two years as it was. Springboard learned that spaces and shared workspaces needed to be assembled. On the second floor of the building is an Artist Resource Laboratory – an instrument library with tools and equipment that artists can use.
“We want people to have ownership of this space,” Zabel says.
Art wraps the building, hanging from the inside ceiling, mirroring conference room windows and enclosing a balcony overlooking the car dealership’s former garage area. Art and artists are at the core of the springboard work, but the new building expands on its mission and ability to connect with the community, Zabel says. St. Paul’s Frogtown, Little Mekong and Rondo neighborhoods are nearby.
The outdoor green space and parking lot have been used this summer for “Saturdays on the Springboard” events with poetry, dance and music. The building will have regular open hours once the pandemic restrictions end, says Carl Atia Swanson, Springboard’s associate director, operations and communications.
The garage area of the car dealership is an open space, with a theater production already scheduled for October. Zabel says the tall garage doors on the east and west sides provide an additional open-air advantage during COVID precautions.
Swanson says a rooftop terrace is shaded by a solar panel trellis, which is expected to eventually supply 30 percent of the springboard’s energy needs. And from the roof there is a great view of the capitol dome, the spire of the church, the green line and activities up and down the university.
Swanson says the fake ceiling was removed in the car showroom to reveal the ductwork and create an airy space above the first floor.
When an organization has “art” in its name, there should be a lot of art in its new home. And Springboard does. Here’s a look at some of the 262 university arts:
- Original Appearance, 2021 – Original Minnesota drawings from across the state by Nedanes Rose Green (Leach Lake Nation) are displayed in the garage door windows on the west side of the building
- window art – A floral mural on the window film around the “showroom” windows in a former car dealership was created by Sarah Agton Howes (Anishinaabe) and Holly Young (Dakota).
- water cistern mural – The mural by Alexandra Guerneau is part of the installation “Refraction” by UA C Creative. The water tank holds rainwater on the roof which is used on the greenspace of the springboard.
- Creative People Power, 2021 – A mural at the back of the springboard parking lot is painted on steel by Discover Dope (Mike Batson and Megan Tate).
- DJ Booth, 2021 — Third Daughter, Restless Daughter (Won and Yua Wang) created a cross-stitch installation with macrame cord on steel for a DJ booth that looks out over the garage area.
- Tom’s Adventure, 2021 – Artist Blaise Busseth created the polished concrete sculptures on the roof terrace. “Tom’s Adventure” has been described as a “symbolic interpretation of the rain cycle”. The flowing water, previously contained in the cloud, flows downward. Water is poured into the receptive vessel and spreads.”
Springboard’s opening ceremony will be virtual on October 1 and will take place in person at the new location, 262 University Avenue, St. Paul.
October 1, 3-4 p.m.
- virtual tour of the building
- public art facilities
- Water Walk with Sharon M. Day Produced by UA C Creative
- Poems of Havana Sullivan Genzen
October 2, 1-5 p.m.
- Lady Midnight, Yevarah, Alicia Thao, Heart and Soul Drum Academy performances
- Tunes from DJ Miss Britta
- Poems of Havana Sullivan Genzen
- Community Painting with Geno Okoko
- Robot Dancefloor with Nick Knutson
- Song Creation with Rich Lee
- Artist Career Advisor and Headshot Station
- timed tour of the building
- special note
- Snacks and treats from K’s Revolutionary Catering, Mark Hugh Patisserie and Spinning Wild