The Winona Arts Center has its 65th anniversary in 2021 and we've been doing lots to get ready to celebrate! Over the years, the member owned and operated Arts Center has been an important venue for the arts in our community – visual art, music, film and the spoken word.
The Winona Arts Center is a creative network committed to increasing community awareness of the arts by featuring the works of artists. It provides an intimate and unique space for performances, exhibits, and other media, and encourages public participation by providing classes and workshops for children and adults.
Founded in 1956, the Arts Center has a colorful history. After seven women spent the summer of 1956 painting and enjoying art together, they got the city council's approval to rent the lodge on Lake Winona so they could continue to meet during winter months.
In those early days they called themselves the Winona Art Group, painting together every Tuesday and Thursday and holding exhibits at Lake Park Lodge and the Winona Public Library. Edward Korpela, a well-known local artist and art teacher at the high school, offered suggestions and encouragement to the small group. At the time, the Winona Art Group was the only organization besides the universities and schools in Winona to offer art related classes.
In 1963, the group purchased a place of their own, the former German Presbyterian Church located at the corner of Fifth and Franklin Streets. Built in 1864, it is the oldest extant wooden church building in southern Minnesota - possibly the whole state! Over the years many improvements have been made to the structure as it evolved from a clubhouse to a first-rate arts space. In 2016 the Center began a capital campaign to make their building ADA compliant and the art inside accessible to all, "Give the Arts a Lift." With $190,00 raised from generous community members and funding organizations, construction was begun in the Fall of 2020 with reopening scheduled for the summer of 2021. We are asking our many kind supporters to help close the funding gap of $20,000 during GiveMN's Spring Forward MN campaign and help us open new doors.
When the group became a nonprofit organization in the early 1960's the organization was known as the Winona Art Center but as their programming and classes expanded to include other art forms the name was changed to the Winona Arts Center (WAC). In 1978, the former church sanctuary turned gallery was dedicated in honor to one of the original seven founding women, Frances Prentiss Lucas, for her continued devotion to arts and the community.