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Take a new view of art

Sarah Hale tries on felted Alpaca wool bracelets made by Cloquet-area artist Karen Zeisler at Art on the Plaza on Wednesday in Superior. The art gallery, which specializes in unique regional items, opened this week. Maria Lockwood

You may not have heard of Kenneth Swenson, but his art speaks for itself. A machine repairman on the railroad, the Superior man brings his camera with him on the job. He often finds himself in locations that nobody else gets to, and snaps the view.

"He takes pictures of things from these spectacular angles that nobody else gets," said Kathryn Senn, a member of Twin Ports Stage. Swenson’s photos are nestled in with the unique offerings at Art on the Plaza, a new artisan marketplace that opened Wednesday in the Belknap Plaza.

"My favorite thing about this shop right now is that emerging artists are coming to us, these are people who don’t even necessarily identify themselves as artists," Senn said. "They’re finding their outlet here."

A project of Twin Ports Stage, the shop at 126 Belknap St. is a showplace for regional art. Items on display opening day ranged from fused glass and jewelry to prints by retired Great Lakes captain Denny Aho, collages by Superior’s Pat Lenz, Husby Pottery from Duluth and art chairs by Cloquet-area artist Kris Nelson. Cobweb scarves and felted bracelets rested on repurposed furniture from Noreen Peterson of Unique Belongings.

"There’s some beautiful things here, wonderful things to buy," said Sarah Hale with Twin Ports Stage. "It’s very unique."

Art on the Plaza filled an immediate need for artists to display their work out of the weather, Senn said. But this arm of Twin Ports Stage aims to do more than that.

"Really it’s just to bring the community together," Hale said. "It just feels like such a positive, wonderful, friendly … silly, warm place to be. Someone was in here telling jokes this morning. That’s what life is. It’s just what life is about."

The retail venture is an opportunity to spark creativity in the community.

"The whole point is encompassed in the phrase, ‘A rising tide lifts all boats,’" Senn said. "If our tide rises, then the artist’s tide rises as well."

Paula Zoldos ducked in Wednesday on her way past the shop. The space between Play it Again Sports and Belknap Liquor & Lounge used to be her bank, a branch of Superior Savings Bank.

"Beautiful," she said of the shop. "Very pretty and I’ll come back with friends."

Area businesses welcomed Art on the Plaza with open arms.

"We’ve had lots of help from lots of retailers in this area," Senn said. "There’s a sense of camaraderie that surprised me."

Although the shop is currently stocked with art, its palette will continue to change over the coming months.

"The plan is to have a regular rotation, things will go out and things will come in so we always want to see things from artists," Senn said. "Stop in, show us what you’ve got."

Art on the Plaza seeks work that excites the imagination and items with sophisticated whimsy.

"We’re sort of accepting that there are many, many things that are art," Senn said. "Recognizing the artistry everybody’s making."

Twin Ports Stage, a project of the John D. Munsell Legacy Fund, kicked off in June 2013. Even without a building to call their own, the nonprofit group has performed more than a dozen episodes of their original radio soap opera, "Twin Ports," staged the play "Sealed for Freshness" on the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus and taught summer youth classes.

"That’s where we are right now," said Victoria Main with Twin Ports Stage. "We don’t have the larger space yet, so we’re just going to have to build the pieces and hopefully put them all together in a perfect world."

Twin Ports Stage formed in memory of Munsell, a long-time UWS theater professor.

"I’m really excited about it," said Hale, who recently moved back to the area from California. "I think it’s just so wonderful having a group of us from college back together and just doing some wonderful and positive things in the community in honor of a professor who we just adored."

More information can be found on the Art on the Plaza and Twin Ports Stage Facebook pages and online at The shop is open from 3-8 p.m. Wednesday, 3-9 p.m. Thursday, noon to 6 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.