St. Paul Art Crawl: Good (and getting better), clean (and getting cleaner), cheap (well…) fun

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Searching for the good, the bad, and the ugly? The beautiful and the strange? Even…the outrageous? All can be sussed out this weekend at the 27th St. Paul Art Crawl (SPAC). The self-guided largely pedestrian tour includes 370+ artists’ studios and galleries in more than two dozen buildings including the Northern Warehouse, 262 Studios, and the Lowertown Lofts cooperative. The doors are also wide open at numerous bars and restaurants such as the Black Dog Café, the Bulldog Lowertown, and Golden’s Deli. Music seems to infiltrate the entire event.

A 1991 brainchild of the St. Paul Art Collective, the SPAC has morphed from a sleepy, localized Lowertown event attracting a few hundred visitors to encompass sites in downtown St. Paul (Landmark Center), the University-Raymond Avenue neighborhood (Carleton Place Lofts, Dow Building, others) with its art-friendly Caffe Biaggio, Selby and Grand Avenues (Grand Hand), and Harriet Island, attracting thousands of art seekers. Premiering this year is the ever-so-cool Everest Building, the recently-developed spot in the historic Hamm Brewery complex on Minnehaha Avenue only a mile from Lowertown.

For your pleasure, virtually every kind and style of art known to humankind is on view. Paintings, prints, photography, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, jewelry, digital work, glass, bookbinding, and fashion accessories are all to be uncovered. Even work by students from the Creative Arts High School will debut in Galtier Plaza. Artists welcome interest and questions (so don’t be shy), and most of the art is for sale at affordable prices.

the st. paul art crawl is free, and open to all. disability access is available in most buildings. large-print maps are also available; contact the art crawl office for more information. free bus transportation (disability accessible) is available to carry visitors to the various buildings and from some of the parking lots. use lots on kellogg and broadway or off prince street. there is also parking by the rossmor building, by the everest/hamm building, and in other lots throughout the city.

Functioning as a sort of gateway to the Jax Building studios on the 2nd floor is Public Art Saint Paul. The organization, which promotes public art in the city, has been pushing a green initiative. On view will be work by four recipients of the organization’s first Sustainable Art-making Fellowship Awards: Christopher Lutter-Gardella, Janna Schneider, The Body Cartographer (Olive Beringa and Otto Ramstad), and Aaron Dysart. “We are investing in the idea of sustainability,” says PASP president Christine Podas Larson. “These artists are giving visibility to a safe, sustainable art practice and what that means.” The work on view does not constitute a formal exhibition, but the results of these artists’ R&D.

“The art crawl is an opportunity for us to promote an awareness about who we are and what we do,” says Podas Larson. “Over 3,000 people have come through our doors on a weekend. It’s also important to be a good neighbor. Public Art Saint Paul is the first entity people see when they reach the second floor, before they walk deeper into the building to individual studios.”

Across 4th Street from the Jax Building in the 262 Studios Building, Master Framer proprietor Roger Nielsen sees the SPAC as a terrific chance to interact with artists directly. Ensconced at the site for nearly three decades, Nielsen has seen the growth of the Lowertown scene. “The Crawl is a great opportunity for the artists and the buyers,” says Nielsen. “The event is great fun, more so every year, and the work is generally so affordable.”

Although elite custom framing is Nielsen’s profession, he is showing the work of three artists: paintings by Sarah Wieben (who also shows her work at The Grand Hand), ceramics by Dyann Myers, and wood-turned vessels by Otto Gotzsche. Wieben, known for her oil-on-paper Minnesota landscapes, has turned her lyrical brush to scenes from the south of France. Subtle and poetic, the paintings range in price from the astonishingly reasonable $195 to $450.

Crawl, baby, crawl!

Mason Riddle writes on the visual arts, architecture and design. She has contributed to publications including Artforum, Metropolis, the Star Tribune, and the Pioneer Press. She is guest editor for the upcoming Public Art Review #39: Between Rural and Urban, which explores public art in the suburbs.

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