The pieces came together when their real estate agent showed them the northeast Minneapolis compound that used to be the home of former Walker Art Center director Olga Viso.
Dreamsong Gallery opened June 4. "It's like a lifelong dream," said Heidenberg.
The main house — a two-story, two-bedroom, three-bathroom space at 412 13th Av. NE. — has a spacious two-room gallery on the bottom floor and a living area upstairs. In the backyard, there is a cinema viewing room and a small coach house the couple plan to use for an artist residency.
Viso's artist husband, Cameron Gainer, had maintained an artist-run space that presented exhibits, performances, books and screenings. He and Viso put the property up for sale after she left the Walker in January 2018.
Heidenberg and Smith bought it in November 2019 for $1.1 million, according to Zillow, but waited before opening a gallery, renting out the space, the coach house and cinema to various artists. After the vaccine rollout this spring, the couple decided they were ready to press "play."
Dreamsong Gallery opened with the exhibition "A Glitter of Seas," an exploration of maternity through a vast array of work by female-identified artists, including a focus on self-representation of women and mothers of color.
Inspiration came from Heidenberg's experience of becoming a mother following multiple miscarriages and the loss of a baby, Owen. (She made a film, "The Water Children," a meditation on the physical and spiritual dimensions of loss and grief, for her MFA thesis in 2016.)
The couple now have a 15-month-old son, Ezra, whose bright orange hair matches his father's.
Upcoming events include a July 15 film screening with Moyra Davey, a solo exhibit opening Aug. 19 by local artist Lee Noble and a reading yet to be scheduled with Kao Kalia Yang and Shannon Gibney, editors of the book "What God Is Honored Here?" about Indigenous women and women of color who have lost infants and undergone miscarriages.
The artist residency is still in the works. The residency and the gallery are privately funded entities.
Heidenberg wants to continue hosting readings and film screenings as well as workshops, while inviting artists to do "anything with a focus on video/experimental and nonfiction films."
A filmmaker who worked in galleries in New York, she was co-founder and director of RH Gallery in Tribeca (now closed). For the past several years she's been working on films, including "Queens of the Revolution," a portrait of El Mejunje, a cultural center in Santa Clara, Cuba, that paved the way for LGBTQ+ rights in that country. It screened recently at the Harlem International Film Festival.
Smith precipitated the move to Minneapolis. He enrolled in an MFA writing program at the University of Minnesota, graduating in May 2020.
Heidenberg, who was born in New York but grew up mainly in Montreal, felt hesitant about one part of the move.
"I always said I would never move back to the cold but then I moved to Minneapolis," she said. "I guess it gets in your bones."
The couple say they intend to stay here for the long haul, feeling committed to this space and to building a community.