Downtown art gallery officially closed
Downtown Rochester lost some color today when Southeastern Minnesota Visual Artists (SEMVA) closed up their gallery.
Earlier this month, SEMVA President Andy Westreich sent messages to the cooperative's 84 artists saying that the gallery could no longer afford its high-profile spot at 16 First St. SW on Rochester's Peace Plaza.
"It is with great sadness that I have to tell you that we were unable to negotiate a reasonable lease renewal, and the board of directors has voted to close the SEMVA Gallery after 23 years in business," he wrote. "This was not an easy decision to come by, and many factors played a role in our final vote."
The letter cited a number of factors in the decision, including a 40 percent increase in rent and a decrease in traffic following the closure of popular downtown businesses like the Barnes and Noble Bookstore and Michaels restaurant. SEMVA sales are down 13 percent compared to 2014.
Beyond the rent increase, SEMVA leaders also mentioned that almost five months of negotiations with landlord George Psomas were held up by his plan to change the renewal clause in the lease from five years to one year.
Today was the gallery's last day. Artists were packing up their works.
However, the cooperative leaders are confident that they will be able to find a new home of the gallery in the near future.