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Roger Nielsen: Art + Life in Lowertown

  • The AZ Gallery 308 Prince Street Saint Paul, MN 55101 USA (map)

Please join co-hosts Mayor Chris Coleman, Former Mayors George Latimer and Jim Scheibel; John Mannillo, Weiming Lu, Janet Hawn, Sue Davis, Vicki Gee Treft, Marla Gamble, Kristin Makholm, Joe Spenser and Bill Englund
for the
Opening Reception:

"Roger Nielsen:  Art + Life in Lowertown"
Saturday, July 11, 2015

AZ Gallery
(Northern Warehouse Building)
308 Prince Street, Suite 130, St. Paul, MN  55101

With special thanks to these sponsors:
Tom Dunn Photography, Dave Ziffer (Guitarist), Lowertown Wine and Spirits, Golden's Deli, Summit Brewery, St. Paul Saints, Master Framers, Black Dog Cafe


AZ Gallery is pleased to announce our upcoming exhibition Roger Nielsen: Art + Life in Lowertown.  The exhibition opening the night of Saturday, July 11 honors and celebrates Nielsen as an artist and his critical role in the transformation of Lowertown, Saint Paul, from a languishing warehouse district into the nationally recognized cultural community that it is today.  Both an artist and an entrepreneur, Nielsen bought the historic warehouse building at 262 E. 4th Street in 1975 and developed the upper floors into studio-living space and opened his acclaimed business, Master Framers, on the first floor.

“This show is as much a recognition of Lowertown as it is about my works of art,” comments Nielsen. “It is all sort of one and the same thing.”

Art + Life in Lowertown will feature more than 100 of Nielsen’s paintings, prints and drawings spanning his artistic practice of seventy years. Born in Minneapolis in 1940, Nielsen labels his earliest paintings and drawings, made at age five, as “refrigerator art” as the exuberant expressions adorned his dear grandmother’s refrigerator. Work from his teenage years and later from his days as a college student in Chicago and Minneapolis will also be on view. The remainder of Nielsen’s work will cover the years from 1960 to the present.

As the expansive Art + Life in Lowertown show attests, Nielsen is a versatile artist who has worked almost exclusively in a representational, figurative style. In addition to the figurative emphasis defining his work, Nielsen’s broad oeuvre is tied together by a strong narrative sense. Each work seems to tell a story. His medium of choice is oil on panel or canvas, and these expressive, small to mid-scale works are joined by pencil and ink on paper drawings, and a small selection of etchings.  Few subjects have eluded Nielsen’s curious eye. Lyrical northern Minnesota landscapes, urban scenes in the style of the Ash Can School artists, robust portraits of blues artists, friends and family, delicately rendered nude drawings and paintings, and intentional copies of works by highly celebrated artists such as Cezanne are all included.

Nielsen was born in Minneapolis on March 23, 1940. Nielsen began making art at age three, and never stopped.  He graduated from the now demolished West High School at the corner of Hennepin Avenue and 28th Street in 1958. He attended the prestigious School of the Art Institute in Chicago, before returning to the Twin Cities where he later studied at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and the University of Minnesota.  He has been in the framing business since 1959, first in Minneapolis and then in the Rossmor Building in Saint Paul, before buying 262 Studios in 1975, where he lived and raised his children.  A true believer in the potential of languishing Lowertown, Nielsen served on the board of the Lowertown Redevelopment Board for thirty years, and served two terms on the board of the Saint Paul Art Collective. Semi-retired, Nielsen still maintains a small apartment in the 262 Building but now spends the majority of his days with his wife, Victoria Gee-Treft, living and working at his rural home and studio in Sarona, Wisconsin, near Spooner.

The AZ Gallery welcomes you to the opening and to the show. We are located in the Northern Warehouse Building in the heart of Lowertown, St. Paul.

308 Prince Street, St. Paul, MN 55101


Gallery Hours: 
Thursdays & Fridays, 5:00pm-8:00pm
Saturdays & Sundays, 9:00am-3:00pm