Downtown is getting a new Night Club: It’s an artist-run contemporary gallery
A contemporary art gallery called Night Club is set to open downtown this weekend as part of a St. Paul Downtown Alliance program to connect new businesses with short-term, rent-free leases.
The program, Grow Downtown, launched last year and has so far filled around 18,000 square feet of retail space.
Night Club may be new to St. Paul, but the downtown gallery is actually the third iteration of the project founded by artists Emma Beatrez and Lee Noble.
The first iteration was, in a sense, a literal night club — an evening extracurricular gathering of students at Minneapolis College of Art and Design, including Beatrez and Noble, all interested in workshopping their interdisciplinary, experimental art.
The second came after Beatrez and Noble graduated from MCAD in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, and moved into a house in Minneapolis’ Bryant neighborhood. Covid-19 cases were spiking, and indoor galleries had been shut down. So Beatrez and Noble took advantage of their house’s large picture window and began curating walk-up art shows that could be viewed from outside. Eventually, when it became safer to do so, they converted their entire front room into a public gallery.
The duo has organized about nine exhibitions in their home over the past two or so years, Beatrez said, and they weren’t actively seeking to grow into a storefront gallery. But when they heard about the Grow Downtown program, they figured, why not apply and see what happens? And when they saw the space the Downtown Alliance had in mind, they were sold.
“It’s really an amazing opportunity to expand our programming we’ve been doing so far,” Beatrez said. “We never really expected it to expand this much in this short of time.”
Both as a series of house shows and now as a downtown gallery, Night Club prioritizes experimental art by emerging artists, Beatrez said. As working artists themselves, she and Noble want to both support their peers and help foster the kind of art scene they want to live in.
The gallery will host an opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 18, at its new space at 340 N. Wabasha St. From then on, the gallery will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; admission is free.
Night Club’s inaugural exhibition in St. Paul is a solo show by Julia Garcia, a Cuban-American visual artist who grew up in South Florida and recently moved to the Twin Cities.
The show, called Sawgrass, is composed of a series of vibrantly colorful paintings based on found photos of bikini-clad women wrestling alligators. Garcia intends for the artwork to explore contradictions between desire and aggression; as she phrased it in her artist statement, the “unsettling intimacy with which eroticism and death coincide.”
Next up, after Garcia’s show closes at the end of April, Night Club plans to install a collection of 3-dimensional multimedia works by 12 different artists that “push the boundaries of what sculpture might look like or sound like,” Beatrez said. She and Noble have already booked a full schedule of exhibitions through the end of their contract, in October. They’re also hoping to add additional programming like film screenings and sound installations to complement the scheduled shows, but those plans have yet to be finalized.
As for the future of Night Club after their rent-free contract ends this fall? That’s also up in the air. Some Grow Downtown participants have received extensions from the Downtown Alliance; others have chosen to stay long-term by signing formal rental agreements with the buildings’ landlords.
But Beatrez and Noble landed the downtown space in the first place simply by taking advantage of unexpected opportunities as they arose, and that remains their plan.
“We’ll see how the space actually functions with people coming through there, and then see what might be possible,” Beatrez said. “It’s still pretty new to us.”
Night Club: 340 N. Wabasha St; the gallery is free and open 1 to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday; website: nightclub.gallery/
Things to Do | Deneen Pottery ramps up production in St. Paul
Things to Do | Pioneer Endicott: St. Paul small businesses find success downtown, under one roof
Things to Do | In downtown St. Paul, student exhibit showcases 65 works by young artists
Things to Do | David Brooks: The power of art in a political age