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Friday, September 19, 2014

Four Things about the Solar Arts Building: Home of the 2014 Fall Fine Arts Show


The opening night of the Fall Fine Arts Show is here, and for the third year in a row the show is going to be up in the Solar Arts Building (right off 15th and Monroe).
One of the reasons that NEMAA is delighted to partner with the Solar Arts Building again is that the Solar Arts Building has such a unique history. I talked with Mike Schardin, who has been working on remodeling and managing the Solar Arts Building for the last three and a half years.
Here are four things I learned about the history of this place:


1. There are solar panels on the roof (duh)

This might seem obvious, but the Solar Arts building gets its name from the solar panels installed on the roof. When they bought and rehabbed the century-old building back in 2010, the owners wanted to be as "eco-friendly" as possible.

"We cleaned up the ground," Schardin told me. "We sandblasted the entire bldg, had all the old lead paint removed, and then we topped the building with over 100 solar panels. We put in an all-new heating and cooling system that’s 90% efficient. Then we did all new fixtures for lights, and all LED lighting."



 2. The building is exactly 100 years old

[The old boiler door from the building's original life as a factory.]
The three-story building celebrated its centennial this year. When it was built at the height of Minneapolis' industrial era, it was the home of the Twin City Cord & Tire Company. It was abandoned for many years before the current owners purchased the building in 2010.

"After the Cord and Tire Company, it switched hands a few times," Schardin told me. "The last was Nicollet Electric. They had it for a while, but then the building was abandoned. It was sitting there and bringing crime and vagrants into that community. So when we bought the building, the community was excited. We fixed it up it brought some new vibrancy into the community."

According to this great article over at Minnesota Originals, the Solar Arts Building  operated for a while as Sears' warehouse (just like the Midtown Global Market on Lake Street, only much smaller). 

3. Each floor has a function

As anyone who's seen it well knows, the first floor is devoted to the rapidly-growing Indeed Brewing Company (honestly my favorite Minneapolis craft brewer). Just like a century ago, the first floor is devoted to manufacturing. Incidentally, Indeed Brewing makes most of their revenue from canning and distribution, not their taproom.

The 2nd floor has 36 artist studios. You can check out some of the Solar Arts' artists on their Facebook page, and I'm sure some of them will be at the Fall Fine Arts opening. (There is also a monthly "First Thursday" open studio night at Solar Arts Building that you can check out.)

As Mike tells it, the 3rd Floor (where the Fall Fine Arts Show is held) is a work-in-progress. "Over the last 2 years, we’ve been working on turning it into an event space," Mike told me. "NEMAA takes it over in September and puts on the beautiful Fall Fine Arts Show. It’ll be there for the next 6 years. We have also been working with the city on issues like parking and numbers and safety, and we finally got the space approved for events like for galleries,  corporate sessions, and weddings. Though we have not yet signed an agreement, we’re working with Chowgirls Catering to help with all the events and manage the space. We’re really excited about having a well known Northeast company as part of our community there."
[Train tracks outside the Solar Arts Building.]

4. Inside you'll find Johnny Cash's personal bar

To remodel the 3rd floor, the building owners installed a few historically significant pieces of furniture. Mike was really excited to tell me the story about two of them that they installed to accentuate the historic brick interior.


"We found a cool 108-year old table," Mike explained this week. "It's the original boardroom table from the Duluth Railroad Company, which makes sense because we sit right on a rail line. It's all metal and weighs 4,000 pounds. It was made by the Metal Arts Company, in the early 1900's. That's a company that grew quickly at that time because they received the government contract to build metal furniture in all the libraries across America."

As a country music fan, I found the second of Mike's "character pieces" even more intriguing. 

"We also have Johnny Cash’s bar from his house," Mike told me. "It was handcrafted in 1860 in France by an French artist. It sat in a castle for 100 years. Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash were once on a trip in France, and talked the guy at the castle into selling it to them. They had it shipped to Hendersonville, Tennessee, and it served as a bar in his house for 16 years. Then they donated it to the House of Cash Museum, but in 2009 the museum closed. They  put it to auction and we bought it, and it sits in the 3rd floor of the Solar Arts Building. From what I've heard, Cash and Waylon Jennings would sit up all night writing songs by that bar. It's pretty cool. The carving on it is priceless itself, very ornate and mind blowing."

Those are just a few things to think about when you check out the Fall Fine Arts Show. The opening is tonight from 6 - 9, and the show will be up for three weeks (through October 5th), Thursday through Sunday.

[Mike is the guy in the sun costume.]

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