Above: A digital rendering by architects of 4RM+ULA, showing renovation plans for SpringBOX, the new Springboard for the Arts space in St. Paul. 

Springboard for the Arts said Tuesday it has received a $1 million pledge from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to remodel its new St. Paul art hub, called SpringBOX.

The building, at 262 University Av., was purchased last June 2018 for $1.5 million, with a “buy first, fundraise later” approach.

So far Springboard has raised just over $3 million, with just $500,000 more to reach its target by the time construction is due to begin in  August.

“The thing we are most excited about is turning what has been a vacant, underutilized space into an asset that really serves the neighborhood and the community,” said Springboard for the Arts executive director Laura Zabel when reached by phone.

Springboard, a nonprofit, connects artists and communities, and encourages cities to view artists as a key component of community development rather than as superfluous. 

Located at the intersection of the Frogtown, Rondo and Little Mekong neighborhoods, its new headquarters— a former auto dealership — has 8,000 square feet of space and a 50-car parking lot; half of the latter will be turned into neighborhood green space and a public gathering place. 

Springboard plans to move its offices to the new building by 2020. It currently has 19 people on staff including three at its office in Fergus Falls, Minn.

Seed money for the project includes $500,000 from the St. Paul, Bigelow, and Mardag Foundations and $440,000 from the 2018 Bush Prize for Community Innovation, along with commitments from the McKnight and Hardenbergh foundations and other national, local and individual donors.

Over the past year, Zabel said Springboard learned from the community about what it wanted and how to make the space as useful as possible. People “really wanted a large flexible space,” she said. “Having a space where people can do all kinds of collaborations — suitable for a board meeting, dance workshop, photography, poetry, a very multiuse space.”

Above: Children played at a SpringBOX open house last June. (Photo: Sean Smuda)

Springboard already has an exhibition up now, a partnership with AIA-MN called “Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip-Hop Architecture,” which includes work by SpringBOX architect James Garrett Jr., of the St. Paul firm 4RM+ULA, and Roger Cummings, artistic director of the Minneapolis nonprofit Juxtaposition Arts.

The official opening on Friday, June 14 (6-9 p.m.) includes a free live hip-hop production session with Beat Cypher and a variety of Twin Cities DJs. They’ll throw a “Hip-Hop Architecture Neighborhood Celebration” on June 29, a block party reflecting hip-hop culture and building community that will include a presentation from Garrett about the connections between architecture and hip-hop.

A key part of the Minnesota arts community for 28 years, Springboard was lauded by Knight Foundation vice president for the arts Victoria Rogers, who said “its influence has been far-reaching.” She championed the project, noting that its “new home will allow it to provide more local and national artists access to its unique tools and trainings, while creating a lasting, vibrant neighborhood meeting place where people can better connect with arts and artists.”

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