Frequently Asked Questions:
Art Colony Expansion Downtown

Published July 1, 2019

Why a new building? Why is the Art Colony expanding?

While the Art Colony has been in existence since 1947, the past ten years have witnessed significant growth. The number of programs has grown 400%. Our current facilities are pulling double-duty as classroom space and studio rentals which undermines both aspects of programming. We are operating at more than 125% of our capacity and having additional space will allow the Art Colony to better serve both students and artists renting our studios.

Does this mean more jobs?

The Art Colony currently employs eight people: five full-time, three part-time. We also contract with more than 100 instructors on an annual basis. It is our expectation that we will add more staff and instructors to keep pace with the expansion of our programming.

How did this idea come about?

The Art Colony has been looking for additional space for the past five years. It looked at a number of properties, none of which were a good fit. Conversations grew about the possibility of a new purpose-built construction. Of course, construction requires a significant investment of time and resources that are beyond the capacity of the organization. The pharmacy buildings were a fortuitous happenstance in terms of timing and cost; the buildings are a proportional expansion that will increase our space by 60%.

Does this mean that the mission of GMAC is changing?

No. The Art Colony’s mission is to provide services to artists, promote art education and nurture art in our community through an environment of creative excellence. We expect to continue our focus on this mission in all that we do.

What does this mean for existing community partnerships?

We expect to help strengthen the growth of a physical arts corridor extending from Siverston Gallery to the Betsy Bowen Gallery and including Set Out Screen Printing, The Big Lake, Gunflint Mercantile, Joy & Company, Upstate MN, and Yellow Bird Fine Art. The location on Highway 61 will provide an opportunity for us to better integrate, complement, and build up our partners and peer organizations in the community.

We anticipate sustaining our current partnerships with Cook County Higher Education, the Playhouse, the Music Association and North Shore Music Collaborative, Johnson Heritage Post gallery, and the North House Folk School, among others. We will also continue to partner with the schools in providing arts education for local youth.

What does the Art Colony do?

We offer classes to adults at all levels, from beginner to advancing artists, including a series of mentorship opportunities to mid-career artists.

For working artists, we offer professional practice sessions, opportunities to sell their work, and studio access where they can work directly in the clay, glass, and printmaking studios. We offer residency options to local and visiting artists.

We offer youth a safe and creative space through classes that are held after school and when school is closed. We host the two Sawtooth Kindergarten classes every year. We offer a week-long summer youth camp every August.

We nurture art in the community through our Entry Points programs which include artist talks, demonstrations, and mini-classes that are free or nominally priced. We organize the annual Arts Festival, the North Shore Readers and Writers Festival and Findings Jewelry Symposium as well as a variety of exhibitions that are free for the public to attend.

We operate a Gallery Store that highlights the work of local artists, instructors, students and studio renters all of whom are affiliated with the Art Colony.

What is the Art Colony’s contribution to the local community?

It is core to the Art Colony’s mission to be a cultural anchor point of our North Shore community, and we contribute to the community in a number of ways:

  • Financially, the Art Colony generates a 3 million dollar positive impact annually on the local community. This money comes from instructors, students and event participants as they spend locally on lodging, meals, supplies, gas, and shopping. Tuition dollars are largely pass-through monies that go to instructors, 25% of whom are North Shore residents.
  • The Grand Marais Arts Festival, organized by the Art Colony, is regarded by many local business owners as their busiest weekend of the year, since the event attracts 15,000+ visitors to downtown Grand Marais.
  • We provide arts access to Cook County youth. The Art Colony subsidizes its youth tuition across the board, making it an affordable extracurricular option for families on par with day care and after school program costs.
  • The Art Colony raises money every year that is pooled into a scholarship fund available to both adults and youth.
  • The Art Colony offers work study opportunities in exchange for tuition credit to reduce financial barriers to arts education for adults.

What are the plans for the new building and will the Art Colony retain its current facility?

Yes, the Art Colony will keep its existing buildings and will continue to operate some programs on that site.

The pharmacy building will be used to expand programming through increased classroom and studio space; further, it will allow us to have a larger, more properly designed Gallery Store highlighting the work of our students, instructors, studio renters and alumni.

The Dog Hus building will be rented to an independent entity for the foreseeable future and will remain on the tax roll. Rental income will be used to help pay the mortgage on the properties.

Where does the Art Colony get its money from?

The Art Colony has been a 501(c)3 since 1984. The Art Colony’s income comes from three sources:

1/3 individual donors or members; 1/3 tuition and fees; 1/3 grants from public and private funders.

With regards to public funding, the Art Colony receives the following:

  • Visit Cook County — $14,500 in marketing support for the Grand Marais Arts Festival and $2,500 for the North Shore Readers and Writers Symposium.
  • Cook County Commissioners — $9,500 used for health and safety improvements
  • IRRRB — $5,000 to underwrite marketing and communications efforts to new audiences who in turn bring tourism dollars to the County.
  • Minnesota State Arts Board (MSAB) provides support for general operating expenses. MSAB funding is from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment that was passed in 2009.

With regards to any profit made from sponsoring the annual Arts Festival, the Art Colony just breaks even on expenses.

To be successful, GMAC invites broad support.

To learn how you can assist the Grand Marais Art Colony in this ambitious undertaking, or to make a donation, contact Kathi Polley, Development Manager, at 218.387.2737 or through