I’ve met Katie Eggers, founder of Thirty Two (“The New Twin Cities Magazine”), a total of three times now, and each time that we speak about her burgeoning American dream, what she’s trying to accomplish, and her amazing outlook on the Twin Cities and what they can become, I feel more inspired by and terrified for her. Is her vision ready for the world? Is the world ready for her vision? Can the world just for once turn out to be a place where dreams do come true and print media can rise from the dead? I don’t know, but my fingers are crossed.
Eggers moved to the Twin Cities just about one year ago, after having lived in eight different countries, and bouncing to Minneapolis each summer from wherever she was living to visit Guy Eggers, her then-boyfriend/now-husband and co-founder of Thirty Two. During those eight years, she spent time volunteering at various organizations in the metro area and getting to know both the physical and cultural landscape. After so many moves, she seems happy to settle down. “It’s an interesting and fabulous place to move to,” Eggers says about Minneapolis. “It's wonderful to learn about Minnesota culture and frankly, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.” With such kind words to say about our little corner of the world, it’s no wonder Eggers has chosen to live deep on the economic edge and start a print magazine devoted to Minnesota that boasts a wide aim on both theme and audience.
The first way that Thirty Two approaches Minnesota is as a cultural titan. The most repeated refrain about our great state is exactly that, how great it is. In this respect, Thirty Two isn’t much different than many other publications in our (totally amazing!) city, and is full of advertisers (such as my place of employment, The Loft Literary Center) who help to prove that there is a cultural atmosphere here where organizations will take bets on new projects with big ideas. Where Eggers and crew have the supreme advantage over other publications is that the story is written from an outsider’s perspective. Everyone who lives here knows how great it is, but what long-lasting transplants (like me) can forget, and what lifers here never come to know, is the amazement and joy of that discovery.
Of the handful of stories in this first issue of Thirty Two that are strictly about the Twin Cities, most of them bring up how Minneapolis comes across as empty and, well, (my words) sort of dead upon first inspection. It takes a little digging to find the good stuff. That’s where Eggers’s magazine comes in. “If you are from Minnesota, thirty two is your number,” Eggers writes, “not only because it is the point of freezing. [We] also see it as the point of thawing, where movement and life begin and new things are on the way.” Between Thirty Two and the recent creation of the League of Extraordinary Women, it’s obviously that newcomers are at least mildly aware of what the Twin Cities have to offer, and are tired of waiting for the goods to be revealed slowly. Newcomers are digging for this Midwestern treasure.
One hefty and idealistic goal of Thirty Two is to push the culture of Minnesota out into the international sphere, which is something that Eggers, originally from Germany, is very adamant about. “We need to keep pushing forward. We're a great city but we could be even better,” she says. “I'm very interested in how the Twin Cities position themselves internationally. I'm upset and saddened that people from abroad haven't heard of us, although we should be cited or quoted in the same breath as Amsterdam, Helsinki, or Berlin. We are definitely one of those up-and-coming cities.” To make that connection, Eggers and her staff of fantastic writers are doing their best not to make Thirty Two another exercise in city-wide navel gazing—they’re opening up their pages to other cities, the Midwest as a whole, and relating local issues to those internationally.
Through interviews with well known persons-about-town like Andy Sturdevant and Jay Peterson, balanced with snippets about what’s happening in Chicago, and an article by Guy Eggers on the possibility of jobs that had been outsourced to China potentially moving back to the Midwest, the first issue of Thirty Two has offset the pleasing but tired refrain of rah! rah! Minnesot-ah! with a series of valid reasons for the rest of the world to take note of us—reasons other than the Mall of America, the Vikings stadium, and Prince.
My three conversations with Katie Eggers didn’t focus a whole lot on what I’ve written here, but rather the inherent fear, trepidation, and idealism that come with building a magazine from the ground up (as well as the fact that Thirty Two is available by subscription as well as being available in 35 stores around the Twin Cities), and for that, I feel kind of bad for taking up her time, as she is working around the clock to create and manage all aspects of Thirty Two. However, I feel as if just about anyone can imagine, at least in part though likely not in full-tilt terrifying detail, what it must be like to start a commercially viable magazine in this economic climate. What people might not be able to imagine is this city from a different angle.