Making space for the arts in Superior

Surrounded by bare steel wall frames, broken bits of drywall and noise, Victoria Main envisioned a space filled with art, music and applause. During a tour last month, she and architect Scott Georgeson walked through what will be Twin Ports Stage...

Left to right, Sharon Dixon Obst, Victoria Main, Bridget Ideker and Cheryl Menzel Zupec perform a scene from the Twin Ports Stage production of “Sealed For Freshness” at the University of Wisconsin-Superior’s Manion Theater in this 2014 file photo. After years of performing at different venues, the nonprofit theater group is creating a community arts space along Tower Avenue to call home. Jed Carlson /


Surrounded by bare steel wall frames, broken bits of drywall and noise, Victoria Main envisioned a space filled with art, music and applause.

During a tour last month, she and architect Scott Georgeson walked through what will be Twin Ports Stage's new home at 1101 Tower Ave., painting a picture of what's to come with their words.

"Our focus is maximum flexibility," said Main, director of Twin Ports Stage. The 5,000-square-foot space, originally a Newberry dime store, will function as a center for many kinds of arts - live theater, art shows and movie screenings, as well as public meetings and private parties.

"The idea here is we want to give these people, visitors coming here, something to do in this neighborhood," Main said.


That will require some tweaks to the space, last used as the operations center for National Bank of Commerce. Georgeson, with the Milwaukee-based Orchestra architectural firm, walked through, discussing where everything would be placed. Handicap-accessible bathrooms, an office and a bar are in the blueprint, as well as a stage and mobile seating for up to 125 people.

"It's going to be a community space," Main said. They expect to open in early 2017.

Pat Kelly, who owns the building with her brother Mike, said she was excited about the project.

"I'd like to see something like this downtown," Kelly said.

When Twin Ports Stage broke the news about the new community arts space on its Facebook page, there was a flood of positive comments.

"We're certainly seeing the excitement," Main said.

The cost of renovating their half of the building into a functional arts space is estimated to be between $55,000 and $70,000. Although Twin Ports Stage has only less than half that amount on hand, the group is working on grant opportunities with the city and seeking private donations.

"There will never be a lower-cost option to create a functional arts center," Main said, and all gifts to the nonprofit group are tax-deductible.


Bruce Thompson, community bank president with National Bank of Commerce and Better City Superior president, said the project is good news for Superior.

"Arts and entertainment from a variety of human and fixed resources in our downtown work together to create reasons to visit," Thompson said. "Once in the downtown our tourists and citizens can then support the local businesses in and around with consumption spending that grows our economy and complements the broader Better City Superior vision."

Better City Superior proposes building a $100 million to $120 million development in downtown Superior that would include a hotel, convention center, indoor water park and indoor soccer and lacrosse fields.

A strong sense of purpose has kept Twin Ports Stage in the public eye for the past three years. Despite the lack of a facility, they have staged two productions, offered up 20 episodes of the live radio soap opera "Twin Ports," encouraged young thespians through Summer Youth Performance classes, co-produced Kathy Laakso's "Time Arc Theater" and helped launch the Art on the Plaza gallery. Through it all, they have sought a home.

"We've invested three years of hard work as volunteers to make this happen," Main said. "We've been doing it because we feel it's important to the community; we believe that strongly that it can do good things for Superior."

After looking at facilities of different sizes, both for rent and sale, they settled on leasing the Tower Avenue site. It makes the final cost of the project much more approachable, Main said, for both the nonprofit group and its donors.

"If you're excited about an art space in Superior, if you don't want to go to Duluth for all your art experiences, now is the time to lend your support," Main said. "Whether it's $10 or $10,000, it all helps."

Donations can be sent to Twin Ports Stage, P.O. Box 1484, Superior, WI 54880 or online through a button on the group's Facebook page. For more information, contact Main at or (651) 341-9419.


The group will host the next installments of its live radio show at 6 p.m. Oct. 26 at Belknap Lounge.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
What To Read Next
Get Local