After 25 years as a federal probation officer, Kelley Gustavson has a new calling: renovating a former Payne Avenue union hall and funeral parlor into a nonprofit jazz and blues venue.
Gustavson, who plans to live upstairs from the House of Payne when it’s ready next year, is still gutting and remodeling the former IBEW electrical worker’s labor hall at 932 Payne Ave., but she’ll keep the doors open for quick “peek-a-boo tours” during a three-day art festival that hits the avenue Oct. 1-3.
The “We Belong Together: Solidarity Street Gallery” festival will collect the works of 50 Twin Cities — most of them artists of color — at 15-20 outdoor locations along Payne Avenue between Phalen Boulevard and Maryland Avenue.
“It’s all outdoors, so nobody has to go inside,” Gustavson said.
The works channel racial justice and equity themes in the wake of the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and celebrate the diversity of the East Side’s growing Payne Avenue arts corridor. A series of nonprofits will hand out COVID kits, including gloves, masks and small bottles of hand sanitizer.
An ancillary goal: cutting through social isolation at a time when many people could use a hug, or at least a socially-distant high five.
“We are emphasizing a COVID-conscious community arts festival where community members will be able to walk up and down and take in the arts and maintain social distance,” said Claire Thomas, economic development coordinator with the East Side Neighborhood Development Company, one of the organizers.
Other organizers include the Payne-Arcade Business Association and Payne Area Reboot.
Thomas advised festival-goers to look for art in some nontraditional places. Art will be hung from easels within the storefront windows of a coffee shop, a barber shop, an auto service center, multiple restaurants and a shoe store. Another shoe store will use its parking lot.
For her part, Gustavson at House of Payne will display art created by inmates at the state correctional facility in Stillwater, organized by “Art from the Inside — Minnesota,” which was founded by correctional officer Antonio Espinosa.
“I’m pretty proud that we’re sponsoring the inmate art,” said Gustavson, who retired as a federal probation officer in 2014. “It’s pretty cool.”
Caydence Records and Coffee will host skateboarding demonstrations on Saturday, Oct. 3, in the hopes of raising awareness of burgeoning efforts to bring a skate park to the East Side.
Stephan Kistler, who has been managing the gallery and other art offerings at 967 Payne, said the festival art was chosen through an open call and selected by an artistic advisory board.
Self-guided tours along the avenue will take place 5-9 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, Oct. 1 and 2, with music events, food trucks, kid-centric art kits and skateboarding demonstrations scheduled for 1-10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3. Masks are required.
More information is online at SolidarityStreetGallery.org.