by mick laBriola 8-12-10
Hidden deep within the confines of the often-stigmatized Northside of Minneapolis, there exists a gem of an oasis where an artist and community can find refuge. This building that once housed a Pickle Factory now flourishes as the Homewood Studios, artist workspace rentals and gallery/meeting space. As I stepped into this building at 2400 Plymouth Avenue North I was showered with a beautiful array of light emanating from the huge full panes of glass on the south wall. A feeling of clarity and well-being dominated my first impression of this colorful and vibrant Arts facility. And the gracious and devoted retiree owners, George and Beverly Roberts, greeted me with a comforting welcome not always common in the world of art-curating and facilitating in the greater Twin Cities.
George, originally from Chicago, and Bev, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, have created an amazing confluence of art energy coalescing in this historic corner building once abandoned in the 80s, and now beautifully renovated. George was stationed in Germany in the Army where he met Bev who was in Special Services (USO); together they found commitment in a lifelong relationship.
George studied music as a trumpeter in his youth, and later became a Literature and Writing instructor. He first implemented his skills at Sheridan Elementary in Northeast Minneapolis, then pursued a 30-year career at North High School. Beverly worked at the Illusion Theater, the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, was a counselor for Business and School Partnerships and is a Master Gardener.
Together they set out to create a community project unlike any other in what might have been referred to as a remote or forbidden part of the Twin Cities. The building sat boarded and vacant for many years while criminal types dealt drugs and harassed passersby. It took courage, guts and tenacity to purchase the building, obtain a Conditional Use Permit, and work with the Northside Resident Redevelopment Council (NRRC). In addition the new owners lavished an intensive remodeling in 1998, with the grand opening on December of 1999.
Homewood Studios is a stunning example of fortitude and perseverance and pure Love of Art and community! Surprisingly located on the Northside, challenged for decades by racial generalizations, violence, gang and drug crimes, and a negative disposition by outsiders. Homewood Studios is not just an Artist facility, but is also a beacon of hope, creativity and empowerment in a part of town often viewed as downtrodden. And this experience has clearly set the standard for what is possible, and a current ongoing reality, in challenged and neglected neighborhoods. Northside artists are alive and well creating art and reshaping community; 65 % of the Artists at Homewood are Northside residents.
Current Artists implementing the Studios are George Roberts-Downstairs Press, Bill Jeter-visual artist and sculptor, Linda Maylish-painter and book artist, Mieko Yamazaki-oil painter, Kathleen Malecki, Jack Mader-photographer, Kristen Treuting, Milo Fine-musician ect.
In the words of George and Bev, “You do not have to leave the community to find great Art!” They have committed this space for Art, not for profit. Their motto: “For break even! Our facility is not an Art Center but a place where art and artists, friends and neighbors, students and teachers, children and adults can find and nurture themselves, where they might fulfill themselves and their community.”
photo by mick laBriola