SHERI BESTOR stood in a third-floor area of the Grafton Mill that will provide gallery and banquet space in the new Arts Mill. Bestor is founder and president of the North Shore Academy of the Arts, which has launched the project as an expansion of its mission. Photos by Sam Arendt
Bolstered by donation, North Shore group unveils plan to offer studios, gallery space in landmark building
A landmark building in Grafton will soon provide a new showcase for artistic expression.
The North Shore Academy of the Arts this week unveiled plans for an “Arts Mill” it will operate in the historical Grafton Mill, 1300 14th Ave.
Bolstered by a $10,000 donation from Kapco Metal Stamping, the academy announced it will lease space in the three-story building to provide studios for 20 artists, a boutique, gallery and banquet area.
The second floor will house the studios, with part of the third floor planned for gallery and banquet use.
Sheri Bestor, academy founder and president, said construction will begin soon on the project, which she called “an expansion of our vision and mission.”
“When we founded the North Shore Academy, we wanted to be an organization that is all-inclusive,” she said. “This will give artists a chance to have studios, display their work and share their talent with others.”
The academy, 1111 Broad St., was founded in 2000 and operated out of the mill for five years before moving to its current location in the Timothy Wooden Building. Bestor said the academy will continue to provide programs in the visual, performing and literary arts at the Broad Street site, but the new venue — which will occupy 3,500 square feet — is designed to become an arts hub for the Grafton community.
Visitors to the Arts Mill will be able to see artists at work, view gallery displays and purchase items, she said.
Kapco, a manufacturing firm long known for its support of community projects, provided a lead gift of $10,000, plus another $5,000 to match funds raised by the academy.
Built in the 1880s, the Grafton Mill (left) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“We have always admired the vision of NSAA Founder Sheri Bestor and have partnered with this fine organization for many years,” Kapco President Jim Kacmarcik said. “We are hopeful that the entire community will embrace what will soon become a one-of-a-kind artistic and entertainment destination.”
Bestor said the $10,000 will allow the academy to begin a variety of upgrades for the Arts Mill, including carpentry work, painting, cleaning and installing new lights.
“There’s not a tremendous amount of work to do, but some construction is needed that we hope to complete soon,” she said.
Paula Christensen, the academy’s programming director, has been named director of the Arts Mill. She said a major goal of the effort is to attract a variety of artistic talent and mediums.
“We have many artists who have already committed to occupying studio space with us,” Christensen said. “I’m confident that we can fill all our spaces once we’ve committed to the upgrades.”
Built in the late 1800s, the Grafton Mill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building’s role as a former manufacturing center and its picturesque setting by the Milwaukee River make it a perfect venue for an arts community, Bestor said. She said future plans call for creating sitting areas near the river and working with the village to expand its riverwalk to the site.
The academy, a nonprofit organization that offers instructional and performance programs for all ages, is accepting donations and volunteer help for the arts mill, as well as applications from artists interested in renting studio space or selling their work.
More information is available at www.northshoreacademyofthearts.org.