The Castle Community’s artists haven’t disappeared in the face of closure — in fact, they’re closer than ever.
Naura Anderson, the founding director of Threshold Arts at the Castle, said even before the spring shutdowns, the Castle’s main staff had already decided to close down the building’s commons. A crowd of 400, like the Castle saw at February’s Dessa concert, suddenly seemed frightening.
Cameo Restaurant’s move to pop-ups and limited eat-in openings further encouraged all of the founders to keep the Castle’s art and music spaces closed.
“Everyone being open and working together was what made it such an appealing space,” Anderson said. “To not have that main space open as an anchor was a challenge.”
In mid-September, the Castle’s owners announced that Echo Church would lease the building’s second-floor commons and business spaces, as well as Les Fields Hall on the third floor for Sunday services.
“Echo needed a space to gather while they search for a home,” Anderson said. “It’s going to help two groups get through what could have been a really hard time.”
Here's what the Castle's businesses are up to in the meantime.
The Castle’s most visible-yet-amorphous organization, a collection of art studios and gallery exhibits, is moving out into downtown Rochester’s alleyways over the fall and winter. Earlier this year, Threshold worked with Destination Medical Center to help decorate barriers on downtown streets. Now, they’re using CARES grant funding to place art in a number of unexpected places before winter really hits.
Like around seven utility boxes, including the one at First Street Northwest and Broadway, just outside the Castle’s doors (with help from the Rochester Downtown Alliance).
Or in the city’s alleyways, stretching behind the Castle from First Street Northwest to Fourth Street Southwest, near Bleu Duck Kitchen. Anderson, who used to use the alleyways to walk to meetings, said being able to pursue a project in them is a "wonderful, unforeseen benefit" of the current circumstances.
The outdoor alleyway art projects — in collaboration with the city of Rochester — will include stained-glass mosaics by Debra D’Souza, a mural that dives in and around Rochester’s streets by Cassandra Buck, and a 3-D overhead installation by Anderson.
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Buck will paint a flowing series of vibrant lines to lead viewers through the alleys and through downtown’s hidden spaces.
“The idea is that you’re following these lines of color and you’re not quite sure where it’s going to lead you and how it’s going to interact with the space around it,” Buck said. “You’re being playful and finding, discovering things that you wouldn’t expect to find in an alley.”
“We’re thinking about what an alley can be, versus how it’s used right now,” Anderson said.
The three main art pieces will, as CARES funding requires, be finished by Nov. 15. But keep an eye out for more projects in the future, Anderson said — like a projection-mapped mural on the side of the historic Conley-Maass Downs Building, which currently hosts Bleu Duck and Collider Coworking.
The Castle’s third-floor gallery and community studio, and first-floor maker studio remain open as well, though Anderson said she’ll need to manage traffic flow before small exhibits open there.
Queen City Coffee & Juice
According to owner Breanna Holtan, Queen City has not relocated for the winter, but looks forward to reopening when COVID-19 cases decline. Keep an eye on www.facebook.com/queencitymn for updates.
Collective Books & Records
The Castle’s store for vinyl and eclectic, used and locally authored books is closed for now, with its novels in storage until next summer, when the store will likely return to the Castle. The records can be found at Hidden World Vinyl.
Neon Green Art Studio
The studio's art bar and in-person shop have been closed since the beginning of the pandemic, but Anderson helped sell take-home art kits in the spring and summer. Those art kits, as well as virtual instruction and activities for parties, are still available. Anderson has taken “a step back” with those offerings to focus on Threshold Arts’ projects, but may look into moving the studio into a downtown rental space, if one can be found.
However, COVID may still have an effect on Neon Green’s formerly open, drop-in policy. “The drop-in concept isn’t going to work in a COVID world,” Anderson said. If the store reopens outside of the Castle, it’ll likely require reservations for visits.
Aside from Sunday services, Les Fields Hall remains open during the week — which allowed Absolute Theatre to hold performances of “Murder on the Orient Express” in late September and auditions for “Grounded,” their spring show, in mid-October.
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Yoga Tribe and Latent Space, Eric Anderson’s art studio, also used the Castle as a base of operations before March. Anderson said neither renewed their leases at the Castle, which came up earlier in the pandemic.