HOLDINGFORD, Minn. — A local boy made good has given this central Minnesota town an amenity that would be the envy of many a larger city.
Art in Motion is a combination art gallery, café and community gathering space set among cornfields in this Stearns County community of some 700 residents. Now in its second full year of operation, Art in Motion attracts people from throughout the surrounding area as well as cyclists on the Lake Wobegon Trail, a 65-mile paved bike path that runs through the rolling countryside.
"I love this place," said Mary Ness of Avon, who showed it off last week to friends visiting from New Mexico. "It has excellent, healthy food. It promotes activity and the arts. It's a gem in the middle of Stearns County."
That gem is the creation of Greg Konsor, who grew up on a farm in Holdingford and went on to a successful career as an executive in grain handling and transportation. As retirement came closer, he started "noodling" about returning home, wondering what he could do to make a positive impact on the community.
Konsor was biking on the Wobegon Trail 10 years ago and saw a for-sale sign on an adjacent property. He bought it not really knowing what he'd do with it. The idea that finally took shape, he said, was about creating a destination that would bring people together.
"This place is about having connection," Konsor said. "I wanted to create an environment where you can feel engaged with the person you're talking to."
Konsor admitted that some people in Holdingford "roll[ed] their eyes" at his idea. But the parking lot and café were busy throughout a recent weekday afternoon visit, and there wasn't a discouraging word to be heard.
"I come here all the time," said Lindsey Schmidt of nearby Opole. "If this place had existed when I was growing up, I would have lived here."
There's a definite cycling theme going on, including a large mural by Iowa artist Zack Jones as well as bike-themed art scattered throughout. The Boho Cafe features sandwiches with names such as the Recumbent and the Tandem.
"The menu is simple, but it's quality and it's good," Konsor said. His wife, Cindi, created the menu and runs the café.
The art is the domain of Konsor and Lily Brutger, the art coordinator. She's another local who grew up in St. Joseph and graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with degrees in studio art and art history.
The gallery — not a separate space, but the entire 5,500-square-foot building — strives to present art that's meaningful and accessible, Brutger said, acknowledging that not everyone always gets it. But that's part of the art experience anywhere, she said. "I'm happy that people are responding to it, whether negative or positive."
While keeping in mind the need to be family-friendly, the gallery doesn't shy away from challenging topics, recently mounting a show of Brutger's work focused on women's rights.
"I want the gallery to be comfortable, but I also want people to think," Brutger said.
Art in Motion has hosted gatherings of artists from throughout the region and the Twin Cities and has brought in national and international artists to discuss their work. A studio offers art classes, and every Saturday the gallery hosts a free drop-in event with art activities.
Konsor isn't done yet. He has long-term plans to create an outdoor meditation maze and an amphitheater, among other things. There's also a small disc golf course, and the café hosts live music every weekend.
Konsor said he's been "blessed to be in a position to do this," and his business goals take a back seat to his vision of community.
"I just want to break even," he said.