Mecca Page was working at the Orange Dragon Art Gallery in Prescott, Wis., when she got the idea for her new business venture.
She noticed some young boys who would come to the gallery and just hang out.
“It dawned on me that they were bored to death,” said Page, of Hastings. “It was a big ‘a-ha’ moment for me.”
So she launched BreakAway Arts — a combination cafe, art gallery and studio space — in Hastings. The studios opened in mid-July and she plans to have the gallery, cafe and a beer and wine bar open by late fall.
The new business operates much like a fitness center, but instead of paying to access weights and treadmills, members pay a monthly fee to use studio spaces and art supplies. Individual memberships are $20 per month and family memberships are $60 per month. Members also get special pricing at the cafe and on classes.
The 8,500-square-foot building, located at 111 East 3rd St. in Hastings, was built in 1957 as a bank. More recently, it housed a law office and the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce. The space, with a wide-open lower level and an upper level area with large windows seemed ideal for an arts studio, cafe and gallery, said Page.
“It ended up being the perfect configuration for our dream,” she said.
After closing on the building on March 30, Page and a business partner spent a few months creating six workshop areas, some dedicated to glass, jewelry and fiber, and others designated as multiuse spaces. A former bank vault now stores art materials, including 300 pounds of seashells and 50 bins of dried seed pods.
A kiln room will have three kilns for fusing glass, and the center’s pottery classes will take place two blocks away at Scott Sinclair’s Zephyr Art Studio.
Upstairs, there are offices, a boardroom and a room for gift basket assembly and professional gift wrapping. The cafe and gallery area, still under development, will also be upstairs.
Page said they plan to install a catering kitchen and feature organic bakery items, pizzas, appetizers, salads and sandwiches. They also have plans for a beer and wine bar.
“It’s like trying to do four simultaneous businesses at once,” she said.
Eventually, she said, they hope to have outdoor seating with bistro tables and umbrellas.
BreakAway Arts is a for-profit enterprise, but 12 artists and local business owners serve on its board of directors, which has been meeting since October. Page said she hopes to create a community-based business.
“We want to bring this to the level of the average person to show that we can all be creative,” she said. “Everybody has some level of creativity within them. We want to be able to get people addicted to the creative process.”
An artist herself, Page works with multiple mediums — painting, drawing, handmade paper and collage.
“The list goes on and on,” she said. “I love to dabble.”
Born and raised in Charleston, S.C., where her grandmother ran an art gallery and framing studio, Page grew up surrounded by art. A Charleston newspaper featured her selling her artwork at age 5.
After she moved to Hastings in 2007, she served as the director of visual arts on the Hastings Prescott Area Arts Council (HPAAC), and she helped to open the Orange Dragon Art Gallery, HPAAC’s art gallery in Prescott.
Through her work with the local arts community, she discovered there were more than 100 artists in Hastings, and she also heard people talk about Studio 61, a former arts center in town for kids.
“I just heard for years people talking about how wonderful it was,” she said.
Bri Larson, of Hastings, a local ceramics artist, took classes at Studio 61 as a child and is now a studio coordinator at BreakAway Arts.
“I’m so excited,” said Larson, who plans to teach classes. “I like to inspire others the way I was inspired. It’s just a way to give back to the community.”
Shona Brooks, an illustrator who co-owns an art gallery in Northfield, lives in Hastings and plans to teach classes at BreakAway Arts.
“We really needed it here in our community,” said Brooks, a Breakaway Arts board member.
Page said 30 new members joined during opening weekend.
Katie Boras, 9, of Hastings, said she had a specific reason for checking out the new center.
“I wanted to make a pottery cat,” she said. “Then I realized there was a bunch of other stuff, too.”
Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer. Her e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.