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Exciting Things Happening at SSQ!

South Square Named 2018 Grant Recipient by Foundation for Enhancement of Mitchell County

We are excited to announce that we have received grant money from the Foundation for the Enhancement of Mitchell County for a second year!

OCTOBER 17, 2018

Cedar Summerstock Theater - Successful 2018 Season at South Square

Cedar Summerstock Theater finished up their second year at South Square with a cabaret style performance on the historic stage in the South Square gymnasium. They played to a packed house to say “thank you” to the community for their support and also announced several of the musicals Mitchell County can look forward to seeing in the summer of 2019. On this list are “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”!

SEPTEMBER 13, 2018

South Square Awarded $3,500 Historic Research Grant

South Square has been awarded a grant to assist with the cost of the historic research component of the application for the National Historic Register Nomination. From the State Historic Society:

Thank you for applying to the State Historical Society of Iowa, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, for support of your historical resource development project. We are pleased to award a grant in support of your project in the amount of $3,500.

Funding for the Historical Resource Development Program is made possible by an annual appropriation from the Iowa Legislature to the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program. The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs receives 5% of that appropriation.

The process usually takes a year or more and professional research is required. If South Square is accepted to the National Historic Register, it will open up much larger grant opportunities and other historic preservation resources!


JULY 1, 2018

South Square Coffee Raises $5,000 in Community Donations for Espresso!

Just over a month ago, South Square Coffee announced a fundraising goal of $5000 to fund the purchase and installation of an espresso machine to bring a wider range of coffee options to St. Ansgar residents. “We think we can, we think we can” was the motto of our little coffee shop and we did! THANK YOU to those community members who so generously donated to this cause! Our amazing and dedicated staff of Julie, Erica and Alex look forward to serving you some fancy coffee in the next couple of months!

JUNE 30, 2018

South Square Creative Arts Gallery Kicks Off Year Two 

The South Square Creative Arts Gallery has been going strong for the past year and has featured some amazing local talent. The Gallery will kick off its second year of exhibits during Town and County Days featuring local area artists and Norwegian Art in recognition of Norwegian pioneers settling in St. Ansgar in 1853.

Over the last year the Creative Arts Gallery under the leadership of Deb Freeman has hosted 84 different local artists. If you are interested in displaying your talents please email us at!

JUNE 16, 2018

South Square named official polling location for St. Ansgar

South Square is excited to announce that we will continue to serve as the office polling location for St. Ansgar voting. On June 5, 2018, St. Ansgar residents can cast their vote in the primary election for several state wide offices including U.S. Representative and Iowa Governor, We will also host the November 6, 2018 mid-term elections.

We are thrilled South Square is able to offer space for this vital community activity!

JUNE 4, 2018

Cedar Summerstock Theater Opens 2018 Season with South Square Performance

Cedar Summerstock Theater will open its 2018 Season with AN EVENING of CABARET at South Square on Friday, May 25,

The ensemble evening performance will feature CST director Craig Johnson. Johnson is a well known and highly respected figure in the Twin Cities art world and he directed CST’s production of James and the Giant Peach last season. He has been profiled by both the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Learn more about him in these articles and and come by on Friday for the show - we are so fortunate to have him and he is guaranteed to give you a great performance!…/137194918/…/minneapolis-theater-jungle-th…/amp/

MAY 11, 2018

KAAL Story on South Square's First Anniversary

KAAL news visited South Square recently to provide coverage on the first anniversary of South Square operations! Here is the text of the story. You can also view the video at the link below:

As small towns across Iowa and Minnesota see schools close, communities are often left to figure out what to do with the empty building. Instead of watching theirs get torn down, a group of former St. Ansgar students turned their former elementary school into a place for the town to come together.

Saturday the community held a party to celebrate the first birthday of the new space-- now known as South Square-- which is home to a community art gallery, event space and art and wrestling rooms. A community theater group started last year by St. Ansgar alum Nancy Lee also calls the building home. The Cedar Summerstock Theater Company moved its group to South Square and started using the space for their performances.

Tyler McKinley, who graduated from St. Ansgar High School in 2000 and now lives in the Twin Cities, is one of several students who helped launch the South Square project last year. Generations of his family members went to school in the community, which gave the project a special meaning.

"We knew we wanted to save the building because the community just didn't have enough space to do community-type things," he said.

In the past few weeks, a coffee shop also opened up inside a former first-grade classroom, which McKinley said was originally a side project.

"There'd long been a desire for a coffee shop in town and we thought 'We have a classroom already, it's here, let's just throw some furniture in it, sign some papers and make sure everything's official and start it up,'" he said.

Lynn Kirchgatter, a St. Ansgar transplant, also knows the building's long history. Her father-in-law, husband, and kids all had classes in the school. Now she works with education non-profit Clausen Colony in a classroom on the first floor, returning educational programs to a building built for learning.

"It's really fun to see us be able to keep this school vibrant," she said. "I live a block from here so the idea of this being torn down was not something I wanted personally to see happen."

Despite the hurdles, both expect South Square to continue to serve the community into the future.

"St. Ansgar is unique, we don't take no for an answer if there's a will there's a way," Kirchgatter said.

Link to video:


MAY 6, 2018

Mason City Globe Gazette Covers South Square Success

We couldn’t agree more with the conclusion of the latest news feature story on South Square entitled “South Square Brings Residents of St. Ansgar Together”.

“[T]he South Square project has proved to be both a success and a benefit to the St. Ansgar Community. The sky seems to be the limit for the creativity that can take place at South Square.”

LINK to full story:

APRIL 27, 2018

South Square's Year One Birthday Party!

It has been an amazing year! This building has gone from being on the brink of demolition to a bustling center of the community. In one short year we have become the home for a community arts gallery, a community coffee shop, arts classes, fundraisers, high school graduations, musical performances, educational classes, coffee shop, dance classes, wrestling programs, after school programs, chamber of commerce events, voting…the list goes on and on.

Now it is time to CELEBRATE!

South Square will host two incredibly talented St. Ansgar Alumni, Daren Bulow (class of ‘85) and Betsy (Neerhof) Kirby (class of ‘00). Daren will entertain with his humorous brand of story telling and Betsy and her husband, Tom will perform and sing. Please share with your friends and consider joining us - doors open and a light meal is served at 5:30. Performances at 6:45. No entrance fee, goodwill offering only.

UPDATE: What a huge success! We had over 150 attendees and an amazing turnout of volunteers to support this event.

APRIL 19, 2018

South Square Opens "South Square Coffee"

The South Square Board is pleased to announce the opening of “South Square Coffee”. Our coffee shop will be open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday (so make sure you still make it over to the Methodist Church for your Thursday morning breakfast!) from 7 am to 11 am.

We have hired a top-notch manager, Julie Morische, to greet you and serve amazing coffee from Aromas Coffee in Charles City, She will be assisted several days a week by Erica Hollitz - who will be happy to make you feel welcome!

South Square Coffee is operated under the umbrella of South Square’s non-profit status and all profits are returned directly to South Square.

Thank you for your support!

APRIL 6, 2018

South Square Named 2017 Grant Recipient from Foundation for Enhancement of Mitchell County

We are thrilled and so thankful to the Foundation of the Enhancement of Mitchell County for awarding us grant money during their 2017 grant cycle! Thank you FEMC!

OCTOBER 12, 2017

South Square makes the FRONT PAGE of the Des Moines Register!

We made the Front Page of the Des Moines Register! The link to the full story is below.

“That a building was saved and the Cedar Summerstock Theater formed, a rare model in the Midwest and even rarer in a farm town of 1,100 people, is itself worthy of a spirited musical.”


The 1928 brick school in the middle of St. Ansgar had only been empty since May 2016, and the school district was quickly preparing to tear it down.

Ashley DeMaris, 32, lives a block from the school and operates a hair salon. She hears all the scuttlebutt, including the one last fall about the old school’s destiny. It struck her as odd. The school was in relatively good shape, and “we don’t waste things here,” she said.

That’s when a group of former students in their early 30s, who had long since spirited out to the bigger world, heard of its plight from Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis and mobilized.

They moved back to the town to telecommute for their jobs and sell an idea, like modern-day Harold Hills peddling instruments for a band.

“It was a risk of dividing the community,” said Tyler McKinley, a 2000 graduate of St. Ansgar High School who works in Minneapolis. “But we weren’t going to back down.”

That a building was saved and the Cedar Summerstock Theater formed, a rare model in the Midwest and even rarer in a farm town of 1,100 people, is itself worthy of a spirited musical.”

LINK to full story:

AUGUST 6, 2017

South Square finally has a website to call its own!

The St. Ansgar Historic School Project was conceived just under a year ago in the hall of the First Lutheran Parish Center after a community meeting to discuss the fate of the former elementary school in St. Ansgar. The group was legally incorporated as a 501(c)3 in January and took ownership of the building on April 1, 2017. 

The last 6 months since taking ownership of the building has been a whirlwind of activity. Mostly good, a little not-so-good, but all progress toward making South Square a sustainable reality for the community of St. Ansgar, Iowa. The Board of Directors is busy every day forming the structure that will keep South Square running for as long as the community wants and needs it. 

So, with that, we are officially launching the South Square website. This is intended to be a home for news about what's happening in the building, as well as a hub for information about how to rent space at South Square.




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