Pottery, stoneware museum will open soon
It has taken more than $100,000 in building improvements and 8,000-plus volunteer hours, but the new Red Wing Pottery Museum will soon be open in the former Pottery Annex at 240 Harrison St.
The new space is seven times larger than the original Red Wing Pottery Foundation museum, which opened in 2001 on the second floor of the Pottery Place Mall, just across the parking lot.
The space had to be larger, because the collection of art pottery, dinnerware and stoneware, has grown from about 1,000 pieces to more than 6,000.
“We needed to find a building that would be large enough for a world-class museum,” said Larry Peterson, foundation president and museum project manager. “Our members wanted it in the clay district,” along Old West Main Street, he added.
Two other properties were considered, “But this has always been our first choice,” Peterson said of the annex building. When they first started looking, however, it was an active mall and the owner was not interested in selling.
The recession hit. Stores closed. And, Peterson said, “We realized that nonprofits have to do things differently. We were very lucky to be able to partner with Red Wing Area Seniors to go in together and operate more efficiently.”
Eventually, the purchase was accomplished. The seniors took the eastern half; the foundation claimed the western half, which is 13,000 square feet. They share the central atrium.
“We spent 2013 tearing down 22 walls and completely rebuilding, floor to ceiling,” Peterson said. The bulk of the work was done by volunteers, who did everything from installing drywall to painting, hauling and moving.
In addition to the remodeling costs and the value of volunteer work, the foundation received $20,000 in donations.
Fortunately, Louise and Jerry Schleich of Nebraska donated not only Red Wing-made items and research materials, but also more than 110 custom-made oak display cabinets.
The glass-fronted cases, which stand 6 feet tall and have 30-inch cabinets on top, arrived last week in a Lawrence Trucking semi. Boxes and boxes of items have been delivered in recent weeks.
Volunteers took on the mammoth task of packing and moving 5,000-plus items the 450 miles from Lincoln, Neb., to Red Wing, Peterson said. The Trails West and Nebraska chapters played a major role at that end. Collectors drove to Nebraska from Red Wing and other locations to assist; one woman flew in from California to help.
Packing began April 4. Teams of volunteers assembled boxes and rolls of bubble wrap, then carefully packed each piece. Boxes were marked with identifying numbers and photographs of the contents. The inventory was maintained in triplicate.
In the first three days, more than 480 boxes were packed, along with 75 large stoneware pieces. Peterson estimated the final total at 800 boxes.
Volunteers with pickups, trailers and vans loaded up and drove to Red Wing with their cargo. As boxes arrived, they were sorted by category and stored so they could be transferred to the display cabinets once those pieces arrived.
Robin Wipperling of Red Wing, the museum’s new manager, drove down to help for a weekend.
“It was simply amazing,” she said. “The cooperation and dedication of the volunteers was inspiring. … This is history making.”
“We had fun,” said Peterson, admitting they worked “long, hard days.” The secret, he said: “This museum is totally out of passion.”
The new exhibit space is expected to be finished in June; a grand opening will be held during the Red Wing Collectors Society convention in July. Museum admission will be free, as it always has been.
“It’s been a miracle what we’ve accomplished and all the support we’ve had,” Peterson said.
On May 31 and June 1, the Pottery Museum will be a part of the Red Wing Museum Crawl, designed to showcase the photo collection of Phil Revoir.
People can visit the facilities weekdays, Peterson pointed out. The original museum collection is on display.
Other facilities are in the final stages, including a 1,400-square foot classroom/meeting room with a 70-inch flat screen TV; a conference room; a library; an 800-square foot gift shop, and two large storage rooms plus a climate-controlled area.
Part of the collection will be displayed in the building’s shared entryway, which Peterson said can be set up for catered banquets. “We could literally do a small convention here,” he said; spaces will be available to rent.
The museum facilities will be run largely by volunteers. Plans are to be open Tuesday through Sunday year-round.
Fundraising continues. “We’ve been in the black every year,” Peterson said, and able to set aside money to purchase the Pottery Annex building. Funds also have been raised through Give to the Max Day, silent and oral auctions and other events.
A three-year capital campaign is under way, and a variety of activities will be held during the July 10-12 convention. Wednesday of that week is Foundation Day, with auctions and a wine and cheese party. Tax-deductible donations of all kinds are accepted. For information, call Wipperling at 651-327-2220.