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Southeastern Minnesota Visual Artists group finds new home

New Kahler location for SEMVA offers opportunity for local visual artists.

SEMVA Gallery
Artwork on display by SEMVA at The Kahler Grand Hotel on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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For the past 30 years, Southeastern Minnesota Visual Artists has had a presence in Rochester’s arts landscape. Now, SEMVA has found a new home to display the art its members have created at the Kahler Grand Hotel. The unique location includes a gallery display in the Kahler’s mezzanine level and also a boutique storefront adjacent to the Kahler’s lobby where artists can spotlight their works and all the SEMVA art on display in the hotel can be purchased.

SEMVA had displayed art in Martini’s within the Kahler since this past May. The art was received very positively.

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“Staff kept asking us, ‘When are we getting more art?'” says SEMVA president and ceramic artist Ginni Cormack. Cormack and other SEMVA members worked to expand their footprint within the hotel. “We kept chipping away at the obstacles and focused on Sept. 23 as our installation date for the mezzanine. And we succeeded.”

Staffed by volunteers, SEMVA is a nonprofit cooperative. Since its founding in 1991, the group has served as a supportive organization allowing regional artists to network, develop their artistic skills and market their art. SEMVA currently includes 40 member artists.

“SEMVA has given many artists their first venture into displaying and selling their art,” says Cormack. “As co-op members, each of us share mentoring, supporting and encouraging, and networking with one another.”

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Most recently, SEMVA’s store front location had been located on South Broadway, but the pandemic and other difficulties required the organization to move. “After the lockdown was lifted, many members were unable to return to our volunteer schedule right away for a variety of reasons,” says Cormack, “So, there were fewer people to cover shifts and SEMVA had to close often. An art gallery is a type of business that relies on a lot of foot traffic. There was very little of that in Rochester for months.”

SEMVA also didn’t qualify for many of the COVID-relief grants available to businesses based on their status as a nonprofit cooperative. “A year ago, with less traffic, fewer sales and bills to pay, SEMVA was forced to make changes in order to keep an active profile in the community,” says Cormack.

SEMVA Gallery
"Wind River" by SEMVA artist Scott Hovland on display at The Kahler Grand Hotel on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

With its new model in the Kahler hotel, SEMVA is returning to Peace Plaza, a location that housed its store front for many years before the cooperative moved to South Broadway.

“I have talked to locals and visitors who have said they are glad SEMVA is back on the Peace Plaza,” says Cormack, who fondly recalls visiting the SEMVA shop on the east end of the plaza before she became a member of the organization.

Layne Noser has been a member of SEMVA for the past two years. He values the group because in addition to allowing artists to show and sell their works, SEMVA “connects artists to other artists, building a creative community of support and knowledge.”

Noser creates paintings, including portraits and wildlife scenes, and also incorporates mixed media in his art. He sees the new Kahler location as a positive move.

“There is a lot of foot traffic through the Kahler, more so than I've witnessed in local art galleries,” he says. “There are also opportunities for receptions and themed exhibitions,” he adds.

SEMVA Gallery
SEMVA artist Ivonne Begue works in the new SEMVA gallery space inside The Kahler Grand Hotel on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

While SEMVA has recently added more art, including cabinets to display three-dimensional art on the mezzanine level, over the past weeks, the organization currently display the works of 20 of its members within the Kahler. Its artists' works include oils, acrylics, watercolors, photography, glass, ceramics, jewelry, collage, woodwork and polymer clay.

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For artists like Cormack, SEMVA provides an invaluable community. “Being a part of a community of people who share a common joy, and understand the desire to bring an idea to life,” she says, “is very fulfilling.”

SEMVA Gallery
"Pheasant Window" by SEMVA artist Kim Butters on display at The Kahler Grand Hotel on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

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