Saturday, August 8, 2009

Former Cathedral on Ash Street Project

Eyewashes prepared by Brian Carlson, JLG Architects, Grand Forks, ND

When the Diocese of Crookston built a new Catholic Cathedral in 1991, the Care and Share Homeless Shelter bought the former rectory, and land to expand their services to the homeless. The empty former Cathedral was included even though Care and Share had no use for it. Not wanting to lose the Tiffany style Stained Glass windows to vandalism, they sold some of them. See the complete story of the stripping of the former Cathedral on

In 1996, Jennifer Peterson founded the Skyline Preservation Foundation, Inc., a non-profit, public charity to purchase the three-spired church. The former board researched the history and applied to be on the National Historic Register, which it is today. They fought a long legal case to be free from property taxes as an undeveloped building. They endured loss of leadership, loss of a grant-writer, and struggled to keep the building up with small fundraisers and their own funds. The tired board members handed over the reins to Kay Hegge in 2002.

Our first grant written was turned down on a technicality, the McKnight Foundation, the biggest supporter of the arts put a moratorium on capital grants, fundraising letters brought in a few donations, enough to publish a newsletter. Ever busy with life, there was little time for board members to promote the project in person. Even with Kay’s past experience in fundraising for the Crookston Public Library makeover, and at the Northwest Regional Development Commission, she and new board members could do little to raise funds even for plywood amongst the fear, tear down and build new mindset of Crookston during those years. Small successes include a structural analysis showing the building is sound as a rock, repairing the steeples, putting the screening back up where the bell was taken out, and painting the crosses on the three steeples. Now, with a new administration, we hope for fresh new minds to help with the project.

The project concept, originally called “The Skyline Center,” morphed into the “Cathedral Gallery and Store” and now still the best use for the building is a Center for the Arts, Community center, or Visitor Center. Combining all three uses will work the best and access the most funding. Sources of funding that we have found for the approximately $1.2 M project include a “Brownfields” clean up grant, Dept of Transportation, “Gateway to NW MN information center” grant, Small Cities Block Grant funds, McKnight Foundation, and as a last resort - bonding year project.

The first step is a feasibility study. We did a preliminary survey on line to see if local artists in Northwestern Minnesota want this space to show and sell their work. They all loved the idea and were willing to pay up to a 30% commission on sales of their art, but that’s not a good enough study to figure out if the Center can pay for itself. We need to pay Artspace or some other firm about $3,000 to do a complete Feasibility Study.

The second step is to raise $40,000 in smaller grants and local donations to show that the community of Crookston is behind this project which will create a central location and one of a kind space for the performing and visual arts in Crookston. This will leverage the Brownfields grant of $160,000 to clean up the pigeon damage in the sacristies. Then we have $200,000 of real leverage for the larger grants!

I am willing to do the grant writing, but our small board can’t do it all, and we are getting tired. We will need everyone in Crookston to get behind this great project. Arts can be encouraged through classes, apprenticeships, the arts is a great therapy and a place to gather around. Many towns have used this strategy to increase traffic to their towns. Bemidji, New York Mills, Fergus Falls, and little Stephen, Minnesota are a few of them. We are close enough to Grand Forks, Fargo, and Winnepeg to pull this off successfully. I can see the vision, can you?

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1 comment:

  1. I was born and raised in Crookston, and my family is still there. Class of 94! I think The Cathedral as an art gallery/performance space is a great idea, and you are right about the funding. MN has a huge amount of funding for the arts. I am an artist, currently living in Madison, WI for graduate school. I will be getting my MFA in Art in May 2010, and plan on returning to MN after I graduate. I would LOVE to show my work in that building as a Crookston appreciator and native. The plans look great! I really hope this project makes it. I think it really could bring something to Crookston that Crookston does not have, Art! Really, I am always strapped for cash, busy with grad school, my family, and of course, I live in Wisconsin, but I wish I could do something to help get this project moving forward. Exciting!