Holding Steady, Growing Stronger

SEMVA expands art engagement in the Rochester community
By Joy Blewett

Located downtown in the historic 19th-century building at 320 South Broadway is the main SEMVA art gallery. SEMVA, which stands for Southeastern Minnesota Visual Artists, has been supporting local artists for more than 25 years. Comprised of nine board members and about 70 artists, this nonprofit organization keeps growing and thriving through member contributions and volunteering artists. 


SEMVA gallery is a one-stop shop for all different kinds of artwork. Every single panel and display is filled from top to bottom with quality work from local artists. Browse paintings, drawings, printmaking and photography or metal and clay sculpture, fiber arts, scarves, shawls and stained glass. SEMVA gallery is a place to find artwork for your home, gifts for friends or greeting cards for special occasions.

This October, SEMVA gallery will again be hosting Art and Hors d’Oeuvres, a special night at the gallery that brings the artists together with the public for a mix and mingle with art, food and drinks. What started as an initial open house three years ago has now become an annual event. It’s SEMVA’s main event each year and a time for artists to showcase their new masterpieces.


Along with all the gallery work, SEMVA provides space for art exhibits. Recently seven artists of varying art mediums created the Endangered and Threatened Species in Minnesota exhibit. It began in July at the gallery and will travel around to different sites this fall. An interactive kiosk, kindly donated by Tracy Fedin, director of The Center for Global Environmental Education at Hamline University, creates sounds of nature and shares information on Minnesota’s endangered animals. From bobcats to buffalo, artists Gayle Dahl, Ivete Martinez, Larry Ricker, Miriam Knuth, Paul LeDuc, Rita LeDuc and Sarah Hill have captured the beauty of Minnesota wildlife.

While another exhibit is in the works for next spring with the theme Historical Buildings, Vice President Julie Johns indicates that SEMVA is seeking to broaden their collaboration with other nonprofit organizations for more monthly theme exhibits, as well as continue to expand art exposure outside the gallery. SEMVA currently has a mini-gallery east of the main lobby desk in the DoubleTree and in the future will have mezzanine gallery space in the Kahler Grand Hotel. Collaboration with the Rochester Civic Theatre is also in the works for providing themed art exhibits in connection with their theatrical performances.


SEMVA and Gallery 24 are collaborating this fall to bring a fun, inclusive, family event to downtown Rochester. Med City Arts Festival will be packed with nonstop activities that seek to bring the community together through art. Performances of dance, theater, poetry and music will highlight the main stage, while more than 30 artist and vendor booths will be open to peruse. Don’t miss a scavenger hunt through downtown, make and take art classes, artist demonstrations, pop-up art competitions and public art collaborations. Enjoy food and beverages from downtown restaurants and breweries and a petting and adoption area hosted by Paws and Claws Humane Society. This will be the first year for the Med City Arts Festival, but the vision is to expand the scope for future years.

Med City Arts Festival
First and Third, Downtown Rochester
Saturday, September 14, 2019,

Endangered and Threatened Species in MN Exhibit
Quarry Hill Nature Center,
September 17-26, 2019
125 Live, October 10-19, 2019
Hormel Nature Center, Austin, MN January 2019

Art and Hors d’Oeuvres 
SEMVA Open House,
Friday, October 4, 5-9 p.m.

Joy Blewett is a freelance writer, artist and teacher in Rochester.