127-year-old building in St. Paul renovated into gallery

Along West 7th Street in St. Paul, a piece of the past is being turned into a work of art.

In a large street-facing window from a decades-old building, Jason Kaping can be seen creating pottery at his wheel.

“I like the fact that I can be right up front here,” said Kaping. “People can see what we're doing. The open sign is on the doors always open. That kind of a deal.”

Kaping basically grew up in this neighborhood. He's one of three local artists who are opening Great River Gallery, which includes a pottery studio, photography exhibits and a holistic healer to bring fine arts to the community.

“We just really want it to be a space where people feel welcome,” said Rachel Fiedler, another artist at Great River Gallery. “Everyone who wants to come in and talk about fine art, who has a fine art major and knows everything and wants to know more to someone who has never touched a pottery wheel or seen fine art photography, just to learn a little bit.”

The building was originally built in 1891 and has been home to a bakery and most recently a video rental store. The artists spent the last three months renovating the space, salvaging what they could like the original tin ceiling, windows and door frames and exposing the brick behind the drywall.

"I think we maintained a lot of the character of this place and I think it has a good feel,” said Fiedler. “When you walk in it does feel a little like a step back in time. With that modern excitement to it.”

Remodeling the storefront, wasn't as easy as molding a piece of clay, but Kaping hopes visitors to West 7th Street will be putty in his hands.

"I know there's that shirt going around: ‘Keep St. Paul boring,’” said Kaping. “We do want you to know there are some interesting things to find on West 7th."