When bigger isn’t necessarily better

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Artist Ute Bertog checks out her colleagues’ work at Soo Visual Arts Center in Minneapolis.

Usually when I attend a “re-opening” of a gallery or museum or theater, it’s because the business has expanded. But in the case of Soo Visual Arts Center‘s new gallery space, it’s actually shrunk.

This weekend SooVAC is celebrating the completion of a remodeling of its building, which actually cuts the gallery space in half, from 3500 to 1600 square feet. Artistic Director Suzy Greenberg says it’s part of a plan to make the gallery more sustainable in the long term.

The space has always been a little too big – it felt overwhelming, especially if you wanted to do a solo show. We actually got turned down by artists because of that. It was 100 feet deep so you couldn’t have just one staff person manage it. It felt like a great event space, but not necessarily a great gallery space.

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Greenberg bought the building that houses Soo gallery ten years ago. She divided the building in two, renting out the rest of it to Highpoint Center for Printmaking. When Highpoint decided to finally move into its own home this past year, Greenberg took the opportunity to reconfigure the building, and she kept the reality of today’s economy in mind.

From my perspective the economy since we opened is the problem – we opened in June of 2001 – we missed the boat in terms of the economy. We get really very little grant money.

Greenberg’s new tenant – an ad agency – will now get the larger portion of the building, which will help to keep the gallery costs low.

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SooVAC staff enjoy their new, smaller digs

Greenberg says the change in space is also part of a larger move to change SooVAC from being known as “Suzy’s art gallery” but instead “Soo Visual Arts Center.”

My goal is for this to be something – an organization that goes on beyond me. That’s why I made the investment of buying a building in the first place; I didn’t even own a home when I bought this.

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“The Laundry” by Areca Roe, 2009

SooVAC is celebrating the opening of its new space with Untitled 7, its seventh annual juried exhibition. The main gallery room is now much more intimate, allowing visitors to take in the entire room as they walk in. Greenberg says she was happy to finally have the classic “white box” to present work in.

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“Untitled” by Madison Van Holmes, made with toothbrushes, packing paper, duct tape and wood.

In addition, the gallery boasts a small front room dedicated to presenting the work of teenage artists (including the dress made of toothbrushes, pictured above). Greenberg says the goal of the space is to give young artists the opportunity to show their work, and mingle with established artists in the community.

SooVAC’s re-opening takes place tomorrow night at 6pm, featuring Untitled 7 in the main gallery and SooFUZE: SooVAC’s first Minnesota Teen Arts Juried Exhibition. Both exhibitions run through September 5.

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