Maybe it’s the 9th or 10th year my wife and I have been the Art-A-Whirl Trolley hosts. It has been quite an experience. We have found the Trolley has given us the opportunity to talk to folks about northeast and help visitors get their arms around the whole weekend experience. We’ve been involved with the arts in northeast, as neighborhood supporters, from its earliest days, and continue to support the arts. One would be hard-pressed to find a similar event anywhere in the world. In fact, rumor has it, folks from the University of Minnesota are out to this year to count just how big Art-A-Whirl is.
Our support for the arts, over the years, has taken many faces. We were part of the group that helped form NEMAA (Northeast Minneapolis Artists Association) and we were involved in the creation of the Northeast Arts District Arts District along with its Arts Action Plan. Most recently, amongst artists who brought us Art-A-Whirl, there has been talk about “Paris-Northeast.” Keep your ears open—it sounds like a great concept.
Because of our engagement with the art activities in northeast Minneapolis, I’ve been asked what advice I would give to folks, to get the most out of their Art-A-Whirl weekend. First, pick up a NEMAA Directory and NEMAA BOOKMARK.
The Art-A-Whirl weekend is an art crawl on steroids. Please believe me, it is impossible to walk, let alone drive, and visit all the studios in one weekend. The official, a.k.a., legal area called “the Arts District” is 14 square miles, and that area contains less than 50% of the area’s art activities. Yet, some folks insist, the weekend is just another art crawl; and, with a little effort, they can walk and see it all.
Art-A-Whirl is just the opener of the northeast Minneapolis art season. It is like the Minnesota fish opener, just the start of the season. The tip of the iceberg. The Art-A-Whirl weekend is a great weekend for solo studios visit, those only open once a year, like:
• Foster Willey, 3rd Fl 607 22nd Ave NE;
• Nick Legeros, 84 14th Ave NE;
• Jason Jaspersen at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 610 Broadway St. NE; as well as,
• some of the out of the way places like Foci Glass, 2010 ARTBLOK Bldg 10. 2010 Hennepin Ave E.
Use the Directory to find them and over the year come back to visit the larger studio properties.
The BOOKMARK gives dates of other studio events that occur on the first Friday of the month and first Thursday of the month. The BOOKMARK too often is ignored or just discarded. It is important because it gives details on open studio events throughout the year. To get folks to keep the BOOKMARK, and look at it, I have called it a “decoder card” for the Directory. Art-A-Whirl is the weekend opener. Get yourself a Directory and a “decoder card”, with them you will know the times and locations of the big studios. Then you can comeback, for the big to visit the big ones, like Northrup King, the California Building and the Q.arma Building.
Over the weekend, I expect to see several couples on 13th Avenue NE, by Logan Park, which is halfway between the Northup King Building and 13th and University Avenues, which are about a mile and a half apart. I recognize them by the look on their face: a look of, “Where are we?” as they try to locate themselves on the map inside the NEMAA Directory. When I see them, and if I’m on the Trolley, I ask the driver to stop and pick them up, so I can offer to give them a ride back to their car. Seldom do a couple turn the offer down, especially if they have uncomfortable shoes on.
For those who say, if the event and area are so big, we’ll just do the biggest one—Northrup King—the reality is that Northrup King, is on a par with the Mall of America, for square footage, in size. Some people have joked, “we’ll give it a quick look,” and that is the last I ever hear of them. It can become a black hole.
Over the three-day weekend’s eighteen hours, if you intend to see all the studios in just Northrup King, you will have only 5.5 minutes to spend in each studio. That 5.5 minute limitation takes into consideration that you arrive when the day’s activities start and that you can make it through the day without food or a potty break. You will throw your 5.5 minute schedule into a loop if you decide to visit with one or more artists and do make several purchases. If you do make the Northrup King your sole target, and are able to stick to your schedule, be advised, you will have seen only about 20% of the artists who work in northeast Minneapolis.
How to buy art
When asked, can you advise me on how to buy art? I tell them it is a very subjective decision, but there are some ways to help determine what you want and how much to pay for it. When you look at art object, if it strikes you, because it stands out, in your mind, compared to other works, you have found a work that is what you consider art. At that point, step back and look at it. Ask yourself, do you see a medium or a message? That is, if someone says, “it’s a coffee cup” and you step back from it and you see clay, wood, acrylic, cloth, or whatever the medium is, you see the medium rather than the message. Avoid that purchase.
What do I mean by “if it strikes you”? I mean whether a work appeals to you, without the advice of others. Sometimes advisors know little about what is good art. James J. Hill, when he built his mansion in St Paul, had French art authorities advise him on what works to buy. He filled his mansion with works that were the tail end of the French Romantic period because the art authorities saw the work of French Impressionists as inadequate and advised Hill against their purchase.
How much? It depends how much you want to spend and how much space you have for the work. One artist told me $250 a square foot for a work that can be hung on a wall. This may seem crass, but his observation has proven sound over time. If it is a sculpture, less than $500. Chances are you will see works that sell for a lot more, often because their size limits them to a museum or an institution. One artist aptly commented, any artist that fails to produce works to fit in the average home is on an ego trip and you would do well to avoid his or her work.
If you still like an artist’s work and are unable to afford it or their work looks good but fails to meet your needs ask if they do commission work. Artists will often do more for you if you ask for a commission work than if you were to buy one of their works. Tell the artist how much you can afford. In general, let the artist know what you would like. Give the artist the freedom to create it for you and you will, as I have been, be very pleased with what they can do for you.
Where to eat
There are lots of places to eat. All very good. These are just suggestions.
= While the studios are open get a quick bite at places like
– Two 12 Pottery, 212 13th Ave NE once a year the owner brings out his crepe equipment and has them lined up down the block;
– hotdogs outside at the California Building, 2205 California St NE;
– a bite to eat at the Sip Coffeebar, in the Keg House Art Building, 34 13th Ave NE; or
– For a beer and a Dago go to Dusty’s, 1319 Marshall St NE.
= After the studios are closed, spend more time at places like
– Erte Restaurant 323 13th Avenue N.E.;
– Northeast Social 359 13th Avenue Northeast;
– Jax’s Cafe 1928 University Ave NE; or
– Thai Sen Yai Sen Lek (big noodle, little noodle) 2422 Central Avenue NE.