Joseph Evans is an artist.
He is also a bit of a visionary, especially when it comes to exposing those around him to the benefits of the art that is all around them.
Having grown up in the Redwood area, Evans has opted to return to his roots to help bring more of the arts culture to a community where he believes it could really flourish.
With a goal in mind, Evans began the process of finding a place that would allow people from the community to work on their passion as it relates to art and to provide a venue through which others can learn to appreciate all that art offers. So, he acquired a building in Morton. It is located along the main street through town, and was most recently home to B. Original.
The building has a rich history evident throughout, but it is in the very early stages of its renovation.
For Evans, who also owns an art studio in New Ulm, the idea is to open a communal arts center.
During the initial stages when he learned about the building in Morton and contacted the city’s leadership and then met with the Morton Economic Development Authority to talk about what needed to happen for him to take over that building.
“I put together a business plan,” said Evans, adding his idea was approved, and then the real work started. With three floors of potential, Evans talked about establishing spaces for everything from pottery to photography, as well as having spaces for classrooms and a gallery.
In order to get the area’s artistic juices flowing, Evans is hosting an event this coming Saturday. Called the River Valley Fall Festival, the event is being held along the main street in Morton and will include opportunities for artists to share their work with others and to help those who visit to learn more about what it takes to get involved with art at some level.
The festival is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. Oct. 28 and will continue until 8 p.m. A variety of artists are going to be on hand, with games, activities and food also available for attendees.
Evans’ vision is to create a Renaissance Festival like atmosphere in Morton during this festival, which he intends to hold annually.
“The festival is a celebration of art,” said Evans, adding he has everything from leather workers to entertainers coming to the event. “This event is being held to raise awareness of what I want to do here. I guess you could say this is the debut.”
Evans is convinced everyone is an artist in their own way. The challenge is discovering that. As a high school student, Evans said he loved drawing.
“I wasn’t the best,” he said, “but I was better than some. At the time I never would have imagined I would be involved in art the way I am today.”
In school Evans also showed potential in Web site design, and later was able to find a job working for a baking company doing Web site development.
Looking toward his future, Evans opted to start studying at the college level, and ultimately he settled on the study of graphic design. During that time he was able to reestablish an art club at the college he attended and started a graphic design club. That group, he added, was commissioned to paint a mural for what was then Western Community Action in Marshall. That mural still exists today.
Evans transferred to Mankato and continued his education and along the way started teaching art classes at the St. Peter Arts Center. Recognizing that he needed another source of income, Evans began working in construction.
“When I worked on my first roof I had never even touched a hammer,” said Evans.
Today Evans is working to establish his own carpentry business, and as a union carpenter Evans believes he can bring the kind of quality work to the area that will ultimately create good paying jobs and the kind of quality that will bring people to the area. It is those carpentry skills that Evans plans to utilize as he unfolds his plan for the Morton arts center.
During a tour of the building, Evans pointed out the need to uncover some of the more recent work to expose the quality craftsmanship that went into the building when it was first erected.
For Evans, the plan was never to come back to this area, but now that he has had the chance to see the potential Evans firmly believes this is where he is supposed to be.
“I can’t think of a better place for this arts center,” said Evans, adding there is 4,000 square feet of possibilities in the building that can be transformed into something that brings people to the region. “There are 5,500 people who pass by this building every day who will see it when it is done.”
The hope then is that they will stop and doing a little more looking and discover what is happening in a small town in rural Minnesota. Evans said he is still looking for artists and vendors to come and be part of the debut event this coming Saturday, Oct.28.
To learn more about how to get involved in the fall festival or the center, visit the River Valley Arts Center Web site at rivervalleyart.space. Admission to the fall festival is $5. Everyone is invited.