#Emerge Episode 26 with Leah, Eileen, and Tyler

Just in time for the one-year anniversary of their ownership of the business, we sit down with Canvas and Chardonnay owners Leah Joy Bee, Eileen Bruns, and Tyler Aug. Canvas and Chardonnay is a cooperative art space located in downtown Rochester that offers a variety of classes including painting, weaving, plant classes, and yoga. Today on the show we talk more about the business and what initiatives are taking place in Rochester right now that these innovators are particularly excited about.

Castle Community Aims to Create Welcoming Location in Rochester for Art and Cultural Community


Born from a shared passion, the Castle Community aims to provide a space for art and cultural community within the city of Rochester. Located in the historic Armory Building on Broadway Avenue, the Castle Community is open to all and aims to offer patrons a new experience each time they visit.

Castle Community’s Naura Anderson explained that the building actually came first, and then the idea for what to do with that space followed. In 2017, the City of Rochester released a Request for Proposal (RFP) application for purchase or lease of the Armory Building, piquing the interest of Rochester natives and real estate professionals Scott Hoss and Ross Henderson. Hoss and Henderson began brainstorming ideas to utilize the space to fill gaps within Rochester. The men brought Anderson into the mix to involve the art community in their concept. 

“For us, community has always been important, along with unique gathering spaces that were not necessarily event driven. A place where you can just come and hang out and feel welcome, meet up with people, meet new people, discover something new,” Anderson explained.

Anderson, who has a long background in the arts, was especially driven to create a space for artists at all different levels of their practice. 

“My big passions are community and art, and finding that place where those connect is great. That means supporting artists as well as exploring your own creativity and learning something new,” she said. “I think if we can challenge that creative side of our brain more often, we'd all be in a better place.”

In May 2017, Castle Community LLC submitted a proposal to the City of Rochester to transform the Armory Building into an art and cultural community center. The team was selected to purchase the building in July 2017. Castle Community LLC obtained ownership of the Armory in December 2017 and began the demolition process within the 104-year-old space in early 2018.

“A lot of the work was removing that inner shell to discover what was behind it. We knew that there was history in this building and we wanted to preserve and showcase as much of that as we could,” Anderson explained.

The building interior, Anderson said, was basically gutted, with drywall removed to expose brick, drop ceilings torn down, and layers of flooring ripped up to expose the original hardwood. 

The Castle team selected Benike Construction for renovation work in the space, which began in July 2018. Benike had also restored the Conley-Maass-Downs building just a few years prior.  

“[Benike] was an awesome team to work with,” Anderson said. “Working with them is what got the project completed on time, on a deadline, and in a way that surpassed our expectations for quality.” 

The Castle Community opened its doors for the first time in November 2018.

The first-floor of the Castle Community houses brand new restaurant Cameo, run by Zach & Danika Ohly. The second floor contains businesses Collective Books & Records, Latent Space, Neon Green Studio, Queen City Coffee & Juice, and Yoga Tribe. This floor also includes an open area called the Castle Commons, a community space with free public WiFi, tables and chairs, soft seating, and games, where anyone is welcome to work, play, meet, and connect completely free of charge.

The 501(c)3 nonprofit Threshold Arts, of which Anderson serves as Director, also leases space on the second and third floors of the Castle. Threshold Arts programs and activates the community and event spaces and manages the artistic programs within the Castle. Threshold Arts contains private artist studios, an event hall, gallery, community studio, artist makerspace, green room and a community darkroom. 

To activate the artist studios, Threshold runs an Artist in Residence program which provides local artists with subsidized space to make, show, and sell their art for a period of three to six months. This program was designed, Anderson explained, to ensure turn over and to open up opportunities for even more artists. Threshold is currently wrapping up their very first Artist in Residency cohort. Anderson said the contributions made by this first group, both in their art and to the community, have been incredible.

The Community Studio on the third floor is a conference-style room which is available for community groups to use for meetings at no charge. The 4,500 square foot event venue, Les Fields Hall, can accommodate up to 450 people and is used for concerts, weddings, banquets, and other community celebrations.

“It is truly a great community of tenants and partners within the building,” Anderson said. “And seeing the community that is developing within that has been wonderful. Seeing people come together, discover what we’re doing here, and return regularly is everything we dreamed of and more. We are developing relationships in the community that would not have happened without this space.” 

As the Castle Community continues to gain traction in the city, Anderson said to expect more art and additional ways to connect with the community at the space. 

“Little things are always changing around here, and our goal is for there to be something new to see or do every time you return,” she said. “We want this to be a place where people continue to come back to because they know it’s never going to be the same twice.”

#Emerge Episode 20 with Andy Smith

This week on #Emerge we sit down with new-to-Rochester resident Andy Smith. Andy is a former teacher turned entrepreneur and owner of Gray Duck Theater, a microcinema opening in Rochester this October. Gray Duck Theater aims to provide a mid-level cinema experience with excellent audio quality at an affordable price.

“I think we have a handful of cinemas in the area, cineplexes I should say. But nothing that is…romantic, unique.” -Andy Smith, Owner of Gray Duck Theater

Public Art, Oil Paintings, and Social Activism- The Work of Eric Anderson

Image of Anderson's painting that will be featured at Forager show. Photo courtesy of Eric Anderson.

Image of Anderson's painting that will be featured at Forager show. Photo courtesy of Eric Anderson.

Local artist, writer, and social activist Eric Anderson is witnessing his visions take form.

This Rochester creator has not one, but two public art installments that will hopefully come to fruition in the near future. Next week, his first ever solo-artist show will take place at Forager Brewing Company, where people will attend to exclusively experience his art.

Photo of Eric Anderson from the Discovery Square Community Celebration and Innovation Showcase in November.

Photo of Eric Anderson from the Discovery Square Community Celebration and Innovation Showcase in November.

A transplant to the Rochester area, Anderson grew up in a military family and frequently moved as a child. The longest time he spent in one place was in a rather bleak sounding region of southeastern Virginia, aptly called “the Great Dismal Swamp.” This area, as the name suggests, is a marshy, wildlife-filled area where Anderson lived with his family on a military communications base.

“I think that’s where the creativity side kicked in. You have the world to play with, but you didn’t really have anything to do,” Anderson joked.

Eight years ago, he moved to Rochester from Boston with his wife Rose, a Product Manager at Mayo Clinic. Since that time, the pair have become deeply engaged in the Rochester community with different social justice and entrepreneurial endeavors. Just this past year, they worked with four high school students to remove gender bias from the Rochester Home Charter Rule, a document that establishes how the city is governed.

In 2016, the couple became involved in the Rochester PlaceMakers Prototyping Festival- an event hosted by Destination Medical Center, the Rochester Art Center, and Rochester Downtown Alliance- where teams of city residents developed small prototypes that could transform public space, revolving around the concept of health and the built environment.

Anderson had several ideas for his team’s design, most of which involved some sort of wayfinding. During the process, however, he was struck by a vivid memory. While doing his undergraduate studies in Boston, Anderson worked a nighttime security detail at a local hospital to earn some money. At times, the hospital received patients who needed to be restrained, for their safety or for the safety of others. After he assisted in restraining a patient for the first time, Anderson said a lullaby immediately began playing over the intercom system in that same room. Later, he learned this signified the birth of a baby just a few floors above in the hospital.

This experience, Anderson said, exploded the context of the moment; the sound of the lullaby was so removed from the experience he just had within that same building. The event helped him to “realize the complexity of life, almost right there before you in a very strange way.

During the Prototyping Festival, Anderson wanted to create a similar experience to relay individual health events- like the completion of a final round of chemotherapy or the awarding of a 24-hour Alcoholic Anonymous token- to the public. He saw this as a way to connect people to their neighbors and to share these significant health moments with the Rochester community. And as a bonus, Anderson’s concept would use infrastructure that was already in place- Mayo Clinic Information Technology (IT) and the actual landscape of downtown Rochester.

By the end of the process, Anderson’s team developed a working prototype that utilized Mayo technology in a de-identified and safe way. His three-dimension structure, The Artery, would share significant health events occurring within the clinic as different, ever changing colors of light.

The design was one of four prototypes selected by the Heart of the City Design Team to potentially be included in the final DMC Heart of the City sub-district. Anderson says a massive 40 x 30-foot Artery is currently part of the design schematics for the revitalized Peace Plaza area. Hopefully, he will see his concept come to completion in the community in 2019.

Anderson said there will likely be a key near the base of The Artery to help identify the significance of the colored lights displayed by the art piece. Eventually, he hopes the meaning of the colors will become “part of the language of the city,” where people will just understand what it means when the installation turns violet, red, or blue, for example.


“[The Artery] creates new interaction points as well as conversations. Once people have it, I think they’ll have it,” he explained.

Public art pieces, like The Artery, are important additions for a healthy community, Anderson said. They can act as magnets and draw people to under-utilized regions of the city. They can also help people to interact with and think differently about their surroundings. Plus, art, such as the new installation outside of the Rochester Civic Center, means different things to different individuals.

“There’s no right answer to what it is. I think that’s important in a city, especially one that’s so predicated on clinical practice and checking a box ‘yes’ or ‘no’,” he said.

As an artist, Anderson is juggling several projects at the moment. In addition to The Artery, he’s also designing an installation for the 2018 Open Source Pharma conference in Bangalore, India.

He also works in oils.

“What I like about oil painting is that it’s very forgiving,” Anderson explained.

He spent several years persistently learning the technique of master painters. Unlike public art, he says it’s sometimes difficult to paint, knowing the limited amount of people who may experience it, especially if the work is purchased by an individual.

“But that’s fascinating to think about making something someone passively or non-passively interacts with for the rest of their life,” he said.

Anderson will display some of these works next Monday at Forager Brewing Company as a Gallery 24 featured artist.

“This will be my first time having a lot of [my art] in one big place and then everyone maybe going to look just at it. So, it’s a little terrifying,” he admitted.

Anderson says that writing, which he thinks is much more personal than painting, helped him prepare for moments like this. He has a “folder full of rejections” from sending writing pieces off to different literary journals. But, he’s learned to not take these “failures” too personal.

“I realize it’s not me, ever. It’s not the piece, typically. It’s other reasons,” he explained. “There’s limitations on something that someone else is looking for. So, it was the rejection, the acceptance, that helped so much to go through that with writing.”

Although there are no dedicated collegiate art programs in Rochester, Anderson says it’s a healthy time to be in the art community here. Local art can be shown at a variety of places around town like Rochester Community and Technical College, Gallery 24, Forager Brewing, Café Steam, 125 Live, SEMVA Art Gallery, and Dunn Brothers North.

“There’s all these outlets and all these things happening,” he stated. 

Café Steam Brews Artistic Expression Through Limited Edition Mug Series

Photos courtesy of Will Forsman.

Photos courtesy of Will Forsman.

About the author: Ryan Cardarella is a freelance writer who recently moved to Rochester after spending 12 years in Milwaukee.

Artistic expression has been a hallmark of Café Steam since they opened their doors in 2015. Their latest collaborations with local artists have taken that expression to another, more personal, medium—your coffee mug.

The designs created for Café Steam’s limited edition artist mug series provide valuable exposure for several talented Rochester-area artists while continuing to bolster the strong connection between the coffee shop and the local arts scene. The first design in the series was the handiwork of local artist Nick Sinclair, which debuted in March and quickly sold out.

“We wanted to encompass the Steam experience into something you could enjoy from home,” said Café Steam general manager William Forsman. “Other coffee shops generally have branded merchandise like mugs and t-shirts, but we wanted to take it a step further by promoting the work of local artists. Nick has been a powerhouse in terms of cultivating the local art scene, and we could not have thought of a better person to start this series with than him.”



The second design in the series, launched just last week, features the artistic stylings of Beth Sievers, who has had several pieces of her encaustic art displayed at the café, along with a spring show entitled “DISCARDED.” This continued support has been instrumental to Sievers as she pushes her artistic career forward.

“It’s very important for local businesses to support local artists. Often, I see a disconnect between the art community and the medical/business community,” said Sievers, who works at Mayo Clinic as a clinical nurse specialist as her day job. “When businesses like Café Steam make art part of their environment, it’s easier for patrons to take note of the art community and start to appreciate it.”

In addition to the mug series, Café Steam hosts an Open Mic each Thursday night, live musical performances on Friday and Saturday evening, and an eclectic mix of visual art throughout the café—elements that help make it a unique Rochester institution. To Forsman, outlets such as these are critical as Rochester continues to develop as an artistic community that supports and promotes local talent.

“The Arts are the soul of any good city,” Forsman said. “We see a budding community in Rochester that wants to foster their more creative side, but doesn’t necessarily have access to the resources or the social acceptance that larger cities have. It’s been our mission to not only serve great coffee, but to open doors and connect artists with individuals who share their interests.”

Mugs can be purchased for $15 at the café and the series will continue with new designs in the near future. Announcements on future collaborations will be made via social media.

“We definitely plan on continuing the series with future artists,” Forsman said. “There’s been such a warm reception and it’s really taken on a life of its own as a great way for artists get their name out there and as a great way for us to connect with them."

Press Release: Bleu Duck Kitchen Brings On Chef de Cuisine Jordan Bell to Kitchen

Rochester, MN: Bleu Duck Kitchen is set to expand its kitchen staff as well as its palette with the hiring of Jordan Bell as Chef de Cuisine. Jordan brings with him a unique experience that was guided by Greg Jaworski at Nosh, and he joins co-owners Erik Kleven, Jennifer Becker, and Aynsley Jones to lead a new a focus on building relationships with local farmers, nutrition, and proper food sourcing. Jordan and Co-Owner and Executive Chef Erik Kleven will be a powerhouse to push the food scene in Rochester even further in the upcoming years.



“I love everything about food, especially finding and experimenting with new flavors,” says Jordan Bell. “Cooking for me is an expression of myself. It's a communication between me and our guests. I enjoy lightly pushing people out of their comfort zones and bring out emotion with my food. On one side of me I have food producers and on the other side I have food consumers, and I care greatly for both. A large passion for me is working with farmers knowing where my food comes from.” 

  • Jordan will be coming onto the staff full-time on February 28th, 2017.
  • Bleu Duck Kitchen’s menu will be featuring new dishes weekly that will work with local farmers and the best choices of what’s in season.
  • A new bar menu was recently introduced for guests wanting to enjoy smaller portions and additional offerings.
  • Sunday Brunch, Happy Hour, and special events in The Venue at Bleu Duck are in the works for 2017.


About Bleu Duck Kitchen : Bleu Duck Kitchen is a full service restaurant that provides a familiar and welcoming atmosphere where the kitchen is the focus, and the atmosphere and food drives each customer’s experience.  Chef Owner Erik Kleven regards each customer as a welcomed friend, and aims to provide them with a new experience that is both personal and unique every time they visit. Bleu Duck also features an exhibition to show off where the action is to create an environment of not only “fine-dining” but also “fun-dining”.

Professional Drummer and Music Instructor brings LA Music Scene to Rochester with Pure Rock Studios- Executive Summary

In case you missed the podcast yesterday, here is the executive summary of our interview with Pure Rock Studios owner Ryan Utterback.

A native of the small farming community of New Hampton, Iowa, Utterback taught himself to play the drums at age fourteen in his family’s woodshed. He later attended Minnesota State in Mankato and formed a band with some friends. The group become a touring act, playing about 100 to 120 shows per year and recorded three albums.

After his college band broke up, Utterback applied to and attended Musicians Institute in central Los Angeles to cultivate his love and passion for music. After moving to LA, he quickly joined a band and played drums with the group for close to six years. The group played at premier LA venues like The Mint and The Viper Room and participated in the SXSW music festival.

Utterback opened the original Pure Rock Studios music lesson facility with two colleagues in a transformed warehouse in Whittier, California. After two years at Pure Rock, Utterback knew that it was time to return home to the Midwest. He moved into a home in northwest Rochester and began teaching music lessons out of his garage. When his students grew from one to seventy-five, he knew it was time to find a larger space. In January 2015, Utterback opened Pure Rock Studios of Rochester in its current location in northeast Rochester.

Pure Rock Studios is a lesson and performance center that custom fits lessons to meet student’s needs. Pure Rock provides private and group lessons, but also gives students the ability to participate in live performances, if they want to. Utterback believes that live performance builds up a student’s confidence and stage presence, a skill important in multiple aspects of life, and allows students to immediately apply the techniques they learn in class.

“Pure Rock is the live performance opportunities as well as private lessons. It’s Pure Rock Studios. We rock out. We rock out country music. We rock out praise music. We rock out hard rock music. All styles. But we really want that performance aspect,” Utterback explained.

Pure Rock Studios of Rochester currently has fourteen instructors who are all working musicians. Along with Utterback’s wife, the team has been extremely instrumental and supportive of Pure Rock’s growth. Currently, the studio is undergoing a 3,000-square foot expansion to add on a performance space and almost double the size of the facility.

Utterback encourages students to learn about business, especially when they’re young, although he admits business ownership requires a lot of hard work and hustle. He wants his students to know that you can make a career out of music. “You can be that recording artist that plays a video game. You can make a jingle for the next Pixar movie. You can be a touring artist and play. You can teach. And you can teach and still do all those things,” he said.

The music venue scene, especially small venues, is lacking in Rochester, although the city is full of musical talent. Utterback believes that there must be a healthy art scene in Rochester, which includes music, to get people to stay here and make it a real destination city. “People need to go out and support live music if they want it to continue. Music does something to you. It can take you away from whatever stress you’re dealing with. And that’s important in a town with a major medical center,” he stated.

Summer Prototyping Festival makes Permanent Impact on City

Yesterday morning, the first in a series of three Art + Business = Innovation breakfast events was presented by Rochester Downtown Alliance, Destination Medical Center (DMC), and Rochester Art Center. The purpose: to discuss how art and business intersect. While the connection between these entities may not seem so straightforward, they are linked. Art can not only make a city environment more unique, it can spur creativity among the city’s residents, including innovation in the business sector.

The first installment of the Art + Business = Innovation series focused on “Creative Place Making: the Rochester Prototype.” In a city best known for strong medical roots, this past year the PlaceMakers | Rochester Prototyping Festival activated the creative side of Rochester. This event engaged Rochester residents in a community-wide discussion of what the future of Rochester could look like and got residents to consider how they could transform the urban environment around them into something that could better support a healthy city.

The germ of an idea for the prototyping fest began back in December of last year when it was first introduced by Patrick Seeb, DMC Director of Economic Development and Placemaking. An Idea Jam event took place in early June to brainstorm ways that we, as ordinary Rochester citizens, could transform aspects of Rochester along seven selected foci that residents associated with a healthy city including: nature, food, connectedness, inclusivity, accessibility, diversity, and art. Over fifty-five community members attended this event and twenty individual ideas emerged from the session. By the end of June, teams submitted these ideas as proposals to construct prototypes, or small creations to test their ideas. Sixteen designs in total where chosen to be developed into full prototypes. Teams then had three months to bring their ideas to life. In September, a three day PlaceMakers Prototyping Festival took place in downtown, displaying these concepts on the streets of Rochester to encourage engagement and feedback from the community.

The "Rocker Talker" built by Tyler Whitehead and Chuck Stewart.

The "Rocker Talker" built by Tyler Whitehead and Chuck Stewart.

The PlaceMakers Prototyping Festival had three main goals: to test ideas, to engage the community, and to demonstrate change. As stated by Patrick Seeb, Rochester is undergoing a tremendous change right now. And it’s important for us, as residents of this community, to own and shape the change that is occurring around us. The prototyping festival demonstrated the intersection of creativity and place. It encouraged the idea that “place” is something that we live in, but it is also something that we very much have the power to change. All we have to do is just ask and try.

Five to six thousand people attended the festival, as demonstrated by statistics shared by the organizers. 89% of the attendees felt more creative after the event, while 89% also felt more engaged with the downtown area. Prototype Maker Dee Sabol related that people, in general, want to feel more connected, and the festival offered them the opportunity to meet in a new place. Besides creating a sense of community, the festival also spurred discussions about belonging, or feelings of not belonging, in the city.

And as Rochester Downtown Alliance Executive Director Jenna Bowman stated, the PlaceMakers Prototyping Fest brought something else to the surface, something that might not be quite as apparent. Risk taking, and even failure, were almost requisite to this experience. The makers creating these prototypes not only gave up large chunks of their time to bring their ideas to life, they also had to stand up next to their work at the festival and engage with the community, witnessing first-hand the reactions to their idea.

Now that the festival is over, how will this event impact the future of Rochester?

As Maker Rene Lafflam stated, lessons learned during the Prototyping Festival could have lasting impact on the city. Rene and her team developed the prototype “Creative Crosswalks.” This concept not only brought art into the crosswalks to make them more aesthetically pleasing, it made pedestrian crossings more noticeable, promoting a safer downtown walking environment. Painted crosswalks are not a new concept, even in Rochester. But the festival taught Rene and her team the correct protocol to follow to get a work like this implemented into Rochester neighborhoods, potentially allowing “Creative Crosswalks” to start popping up around the city soon.

Some of the prototypes found permanent homes. The Rochester Art Center purchased two of the structures, the “Rocker Talker,” a large rocking platform that can seat multiple people, and “Chime In,” a set of life-size, multicolor chimes, for Mayo Park. This space will, hopefully, slowly be transformed into a public art park.

"The Artery" built by Eric Anderson, Rose Anderson, Diane Klein, Matthew Moore, Anthony Huber, Nel Pilgrim-Rukavina, and Grace Wengler.

"The Artery" built by Eric Anderson, Rose Anderson, Diane Klein, Matthew Moore, Anthony Huber, Nel Pilgrim-Rukavina, and Grace Wengler.

There are plans to permanently house the “Artery,” a three-dimensional installation that relays significant health events in the city by changing colors, in the 3rd Street Parking Ramp. A storm water waste management system will also be installed in this ramp as part art project, part educational piece to encourage public interaction and learning.

PlaceMakers | Rochester Prototyping Festival activated and showcased a part of Rochester that often goes unrecognized. It allowed residents to get a taste of what role they can play as this city develops. Now it’s time for us to play our parts and help to mold the future of our city into an inclusive place for all of our residents.