By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, MN Change is hard and it’s something you don’t do until you have to,” Bob Wilde said as he prepared to close the doors of Robert Wilde Studio in Dassel.
With 68 years and one back surgery behind him, Wilde has found that the time has come to make some changes.
Wilde purchased the building on the corner of Third Street and Atlantic Avenue in 1996. The building has housed his gallery, four offices, and three apartments.
Two years ago, he seriously injured his back, which accrued after 30 years of work and strain, Wilde noted.
“If I didn’t have surgery, I would be paralyzed from the waist down,” Wilde said, adding that he already was losing feeling in his one leg because his spine was shifting, and pinching the spinal cord.
After a successful surgery, Wilde was eventually able to come back to open the studio, where he framed artwork and made prints.
In addition to that, he rented out apartments and offices in the building and provided the necessary maintenance. The maintenance part has been hard on him, Wilde said, explaining he is no longer able to bend or twist.
Since hiring the necessary services wouldn’t be economical for him, Wilde has decided to sell the building.
Though there have been some interested prospects, papers have yet to be signed for the building at 301 Atlantic Avenue.
Selling the building doesn’t mean retirement for the artist and former college art instructor. “I will never completely retire, as long as I can do anything,” Wilde said.
He still plans to continue the printing side of his business and work out of his home studio just outside of Dassel.
“I’m ready to do something different,” Wilde said, who plans to work on his own art of sculpting. “I’m ready to get back to my other obsessions and leave my hobby as landlord.”
As far as the framing operation, Wilde has looked to local artist and owner of Gall Dang Studio in Dassel, Chantal Boon, to take it over on a trial basis. Boon is currently renting office space from Wilde for her gallery and he has been training her to do the framing.
The studio officially closed Saturday and for the time being, Wilde will continue to take orders for both framing and printing.
History of Robert Wilde Studio
In the summer of 1996, Wilde had completed his master’s degree in arts from St. Cloud State University and found himself in need of studio space. Prior to that, he had his own welding repair and fabrication business.
He was commissioned to create a second portrait sculpture in Hutchinson for the AFS Park (named after the cultural exchange program, American Field Service). The first one Wilde did was called Tall Friend and was of a foreign exchange student from Belgium. His second work was of the sponsor of the AFS program, Jay Beytien. It sits on a bench at the AFS park along the Crow River in Hutchinson.
Wilde found a space, owned by Howard Page, was empty and only being used for storage.
He approached Page, who gave him a deal he couldn’t refuse. Wilde was able to purchase the building on a contract for deed with the payments equal to rent.
At first, Wilde moved his clay and sculpture equipment into the space.
Then, Red Roosters Days was upon him and he found the space was ideal for resurrecting the fine arts show that had been part of the Labor Day festivities until the mid-1980s.
“I called and begged all the artists I knew,” he said.
It was after the first fine arts show in the studio, when Wilde began thinking the space would be perfect for exhibiting artwork year-round. However, it was also around the same time when he was accepted to teach in the sculpture program at St. Ben’s and St. John’s University in Collegeville.
In 2003, when Wilde wasn’t rehired to teach, he decided it was a good time to open the gallery to artists on consignment.
Also around that time, he started doing some framing and purchased his first large printer.
In 2004, Wilde was again called back to be an adjunct assistant professor; a job he couldn’t turn down.
“I enjoyed teaching,” Wilde said.
While he was teaching, Wilde hired his daughter, Elisabeth, to help out at the studio, until he returned full time in 2006.
That was also around the same time Stepping Stone Gallery closed in Hutchinson, and much of the print and framing business was referred to Robert Wilde Studio, which helped business considerably, he noted.
As far as a gallery, that was a harder business for him in Dassel.
From time-to-time, he would sell a piece of the pricier artwork, but for the most part, it was smaller purchases like note cards, Wilde commented.