Artists benefit from old city hall

Photo Credit: Rachel Kraft

A musician sets up his stage for the grand opening of a new clothing store in the old City Hall building in Superior, Wis. Conversation hums through the pink marble halls where Andy Noyes will be playing his guitar in the entryway of the new ART in the Alley clothing store.

Noyes said the building itself has a strong effect on the people and the community.

“Someone built something that was intended to say something to future generations, and now that it is a hub for creative community types is all the better,” said Noyes.

A diverse group of businesses are located throughout the building’s layout. The building holds a coffee shop, multiple studio spaces, a chiropractic office, a clothing boutique, a bead store, and an art gallery that has a new exhibit each month.

The building’s owner of over 20 years, Jeffery Heller, said he didn’t want just another bar for Superior.

“I looked at it as a place to talk, talk about Superior,” said Heller.

The building itself was built in 1890 and was originally used as the city’s jail. It still holds its original structure and has only had a few interior changes since it was built 121 years ago. It has 14 rentable spaces, all of them filled with tenants. The majority of them are focused around bringing art into the community.

Karin Kraemer, one of the tenants, is the owner of Duluth Pottery, a studio and shop right next door to the Red Mug Coffeehouse. Kraemer said that the businesses in the old City Hall have evolved into what they are today.

“Most people have a group and not a place, we had it reversed,” said Kraemer.

The group of venders and artists that occupy the building are part of a community, a community of businesses that are locally supported. The vendors bring in local artists and sell their work, almost like a consignment shop. All the items are marked with a price and the artist’s name and then are tracked for sale. When the item is sold, the vendor and the artist get a percentage of the sale, furthering the business and the artist’s work.

The building’s future can’t be foretold, but Heller has a few plans he would like to move forward with as soon as the opportunity arises. He wants to expand the non-profit art school, hoping to add a music school but “it’s just a matter of money.” He would also like to add an elevator to make the building more accessible for everyone, but he said it would cost around $850,000. Something they just can’t afford right now. Whatever the future holds for the building, as of right now it’s blossoming into a thriving art community.

“It architecturally is such a presence, an inspiring presence,” said Noyes. “And it’s funny because it’s an old municipal building you wouldn’t think would be inspiring but it is.”

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