History

…like many great feasts for the senses, began around a kitchen table. In 1959 a small group of friends and neighbors gathered to share their dreams of having a place for the arts to flourish. Some folks were actors, others were visual artists, all wanted a place where students and professionals could explore and produce various art forms. By 1961 the group incorporated as Northfield Arts Guild, a non-profit organization. The Arts Guild then purchased an old church, converting it into a center for the arts.

Imagine the energy and excitement filling that converted church as actors rehearsed upstairs, students explored their creativity in the basement, and visual artists displayed their work along a clothesline in the yard. The dream of establishing a comprehensive center for the arts was alive and well!

In 1978, the city of Northfield offered the Arts Guild the opportunity to lease an historic building located downtown. The Guild accepted the offer and moved all but the theater program. This new site provided the Guild with space for a gallery, gift shop, dance studio, classrooms, and administrative offices. In 1988 the City of Northfield was ready to sell the building to the Arts Guild – a Campaign for the Center of the Arts garnered substantial community support and the building was purchased.

Today, it is hard to imagine downtown Northfield without the Arts Guild. The Arts Guild produces over 100 annual events and 40 weekly art classes. In 2013 over 1,200 local artists’ work was exhibited, more than 400 students took classes and 31,000 people passed through our doors. The Arts Guild is also very active in developing Northfield as an arts tourism destination, acting as fiscal agent and business consultant for several projects including the Riverwalk Market Fair.

Interested in learning more? Read about the history of the Guild from founder Myrna Johnson’s perspectiveor watch the video below featuring Myrna, Sue Shepard (first Executive Director), and Patsy Dew on the founding of the Guild. The video was recorded as part of a Northfield Historical Society’s Oral History Project.

Founding of the Northfield Arts Guild from Hayes Scriven on Vimeo.