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BCAC unveils new look, new name for future facility — the Watermark Art Center

Pat Donnay explains the floor plan to Scott Turn as area residents were invited to a reception Thursday at the Bemidji Community Art Center as they unveiled plans for their new site, including a new name, Watermark Art Center. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — A new site, a new name, a new beginning.

The Bemidji Community Art Center unveiled its plans for a new facility Thursday, also announcing it would operate under a new name when the site — the former Lakeside Lueken’s — opens in a couple of years.

The BCAC then will become known as the Watermark Art Center.

"One of the biggest factors (in searching for a new name) is that we have a regional reach," said Lori Forshee-Donnay, executive director. "We go beyond the Bemidji city limits."

Watermark Art Center is a name that references water, or area lakes and rivers, and also alludes to the physical act of making a mark, by putting paintbrush to paper.

"When you think of a watermark, you think of authenticity, of quality," Forshee-Donnay. "We’re very excited about (the new name)."

The BCAC, now located inside the historic Carnegie Library, hosted a reception Thursday for a preview of Child’s Play, a new exhibit opening today featuring work by local artist John Lembi.

The event also served as a forum to announce the new name and unveil a scale model of the Watermark Art Center, created by Northwest Technical College model-making students Cody Dalton and Chris Hager, under the direction of Lyle Muelebroeck.

"It looks very nice," said Pat Rice, who with husband Cal attended the event. "There is a nice amount of room here."

Offering about 10,000 square feet to the BCAC’s current 4,000, the Lakeside building will allow the art center to expand offerings for galleries, conferences, classrooms and office space.

Several events now held at the BCAC simply don’t have enough room, Forshee-Donnay said. For instance, a March spoken-word event drew 95 people for a standing-room only crowd.

"Sometimes it’s uncomfortable," she said. "We don’t have a lot of room, and it’s not open."

The new site will better allow the art center to hold larger gatherings and encourage audience participation.

"The space we’re creating is very flexible," Forshee-Donnay said.

The new site will have dedicated locations for the gift shop and the Region 2 Arts Council, which is now housed in the lower level of the Carnegie.

The BCAC also is considering dedicating one of its three galleries to American Indian art.

But a relocation is not imminent.

Forshee-Donnay said the focus now, having purchased the Lakeside building last year with a low-income USDA loan, will turn to raising public support for and excitement about the project.

"It’s a fantastic opportunity," she said. "Now, it’s time for us to do some more community education, to get people on board with what we’re doing."