Our History

The roots of the present-day art center can be traced back to Edna Imm, an art teacher in White Bear Lake in the 1930s and 40s who brought together groups of artists for classes.

In the 1960s, a teacher named Sister Florentine saw the burgeoning artist scene in White Bear Lake started by Imm and decided to organize it. She created the White Bear Arts Council in 1968, along with artists such as Polly Shank, Nels Femrite, and Frank Zeller. The White Bear Arts Council became an official nonprofit organization on May 16, 1968. Soon after, classes in all mediums began being offered to adults and children of all ages and abilities.

They operated as the White Bear Arts Council for 30 years, primarily hosting events like the Northern Lights Exhibition, the WriteNow! Contest, and the Sandcastles and Creatures Contest. After hopping from building to building, they needed a permanent home, and in 1997 they moved into the Armory in downtown White Bear Lake. There, they changed the name to White Bear Center for the Arts.

With deep roots already in the community, WBCA began to grow. Zeller developed the Arts in Elementary program, which brings art classes into local schools. The clay program was developed, and events started being hosted that allowed fellow White Bear artists to get to know each other. As a result of tremendous growth, WBCA moved into our current state-of-the-art facility in 2013, which has allowed the art center to expand and diversify its program offerings. In 2021, we had our grand reopening after a 12,000 sq. foot expansion featuring a new gallery, new walking labyrinth, a retail space, a clay wing, and several other improvements across the art center. WBCA is now entirely ADA-accessible and provides a warm, welcoming home for the arts.

Our art center features include three studio classrooms, a well-equipped clay studio, an art resources library, an outdoor walking labyrinth, rain gardens, patio space, a prairie, and beautifully-landscaped grounds.

Watch WBCA Expand:

"WBCA is a jewel and an epicenter of discovery that wants to grow stronger and evermore rooted in the fabric of our community. Please come and find out how the universal language of art brings people together and builds friendships."
- Kim Ford, past WBCA Board Member