Art-A-Whirl returns for its 23rd year
It’s the second year Dameun Strange has had a top-down view of the artistic chaos known as Art-A-Whirl.
Now in its 23rd year, the country’s largest open studio tour draws more than 40,000 art lovers to Northeast Minneapolis to check out artists in their natural habitats. Strange, executive director of the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association since 2016, said the biggest thing he has learned — apart from “you can never depend on the weather” — is that each year families will line up before studios even open to buy art, despite the notion that breweries have taken over Art-A-Whirl.
“I think I’ve learned despite the rumors that a lot of the people that are coming to Northeast and are visiting artists and checking out art and buying art,” he said.
Weather permitting, NEMAA central will be located in a kiosk at Logan Park to help whirlers find their way across the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District. There are three easily accessible areas to check out during this year’s Art-A-Whirl, May 18–20.
The heart of the whirl
Strange calls Quincy Street the “heart of Art-A-Whirl.”
Thanks to the nearby Northrup King Building, the largest of the studio buildings participating in Art-A-Whirl, the intersection of 14th & Quincy is ground zero for finding one-of-a-kind art.
Inside the complex web of 10 studio buildings you’ll find Goldenflow GlassWorks, a glassblowing studio that churns out gold leaf-filled snowdomes. Owners Dan Mather and Rollie Reis-Mather started making them as a side business decades ago while he drove limousines on weekends. This year, the two plan to showcase the studio’s growing lighting business, which has led to large-scale art installations that combine Mather’s glass blowing and metalwork.
The studio opens to the public on Saturdays in the fall, but Mather said Art-A-Whirl is their biggest day by far, with roughly 5,000 people expected to come in and out of the studio over the weekend. It’s become a tradition since they participated in the first Art-A-Whirl 23 years ago.
“We see a lot of people from out of town, a surprising number people from out of state,” he said.
Following the success of a new live gallery space in the Northrup King Building, Strange said NEMAA will continue to host Art N|Motion with about two-dozen rotating artists to creating work throughout Art-A-Whirl weekend.
The third-floor studio flips the traditional gallery space on its head, combining the live artistic element of a studio with the showroom of a gallery. By the end of the weekend, guests will be able to buy the work that they saw as a blank canvas just days ago.
On that floor whirlers will find another recent addition to the building. Revel Art Gallery, a new artist space, opened at the end of March.
Founder Thomas Unise said he’ll be showing art from Julie Garretson, Barret Lee, Darren Terpstra and Janella Fesenmaier. Next door in his co-working office, Growth Lab, Unise will show even more work.
Outside the building, whirlers can find food trucks. But this year will bring a pop-up taco service from Centro at Popul Vuh, two restaurant concepts coming from chef José Alarcon and the team at Lyn 65. The weekend will serve as a preview of the concepts at 1414 Quincy St. NE with menu items like tacos and churros, along with margaritas, beer and wine.
Indeed Brewing, Architectural Antiques and studio buildings like the Solar Arts Building, Thorp Building and 1330 Quincy Street Studios also make Quincy Street a popular Art-A-Whirl destination.
The main drag
Sheridan’s 13th Avenue connects restaurants, galleries and studios from Rogue Buddha Gallery to the east to the Grain Belt Studios near the riverfront.
On the same block as the warehouse studio building, which boasts nearly 130,000 square feet of space for artists and creative businesses, an ominous carved head is visible from the parking lot. The face, a piece Nick Legeros made for his daughter’s school’s rendition of “The Wizard of Oz,” is attached to the bronze sculptor’s studio.
This year, Legeros said his studio will mostly serve as a gallery space showcasing his work, from a bronze cast he made of his son to a large bronze relief of the American flag he’s working on for a client. Typically, he doesn’t do much business selling $20,000 bronze sculptures to wandering guests, but Legeros said Art-A-Whirl is an important networking opportunity.
“If you don’t reach out to people, what makes you think they’re going to reach out about your work?” he said.
Tracing 13th Avenue, whirlers will find the Food Building at 13th & Marshall hosting local artists throughout the weekend. Resident businesses Baker’s Field Flour & Bread and Red Table Meat Co. will have a pop-up shop selling meats and baked goods.
Just beyond Main Street there’s Ann Meyers’ Gumball Boutique, which will have a pop-up vintage shop and guest artists selling their own wares. Meyers said one shopper will win a basket full of local artisanal items in a drawing.
The neighborhood’s eateries are planning several special treats for the event. Across the street, the mixologists at Young Joni’s back bar will create a signature Art-A-Whirl cocktail. Sleepy V’s, formerly known as Rebel Donut Bar, at 13th & 2nd will have live donut painting with Christopher Brown from 5 p.m.–7 p.m. Friday, donut face painting from 1 p.m.–3 p.m. on Saturday and a donut coloring contest all day on Sunday. Inside, Sleepy V’s will feature work from artists Brown, BrieAnna Lindquist and Loren Seel in addition to providing discounts for those with “I Bought Art” stickers.
Their neighbors, Social Catering Co., will be providing barbecue steam buns and dim sum throughout the weekend under the direction of chef Joe Wagner and his wife Michelle, owner Jaren Turley said. Craig Kaiser of Cry Baby Craig’s will have his new retail shop open to sell hot sauce.
The core of the weekend’s music sits with Anchor Fish & Chips and the 331 Club. Anchor will bring in local Monica LaPlante on Saturday and Minneapolis band Romantica on Sunday, in addition to other artists throughout the weekend. The 331 Club will have new performer every hour of Art-A-Whirl, from Gaelynn Lea (5 p.m. on Sunday) to Mark Mallman and Charlie Parr (7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Saturday).
Strange said Theater Latte Da will open the doors of the Ritz Theater to give tours and give whirlers a behind-the-scenes look at the theater company’s musical productions.
Next door, Rogue Buddha Gallery, a NEMAA member, will be showcasing owner Nicholas Harper’s fine art and portraits — “classically based with a contemporary bent,” he said — in the main gallery and nearly a dozen artists in two smaller gallery rooms. Harper said the weekend will likely bring a couple thousand people inside Rogue Buddha.
“In terms of sheer traffic, (Art-A-Whirl) is huge,” he said.
The one-stop shop
The Pillsbury A-Mill isn’t really in Northeast Minneapolis, but its concentration of artists, not to mention its riverfront real estate, make it a destination, Strange said.
“The A-Mill is an isolated area for Art-A-Whirl,” he said, “but it has a beautiful view of the city, lots of artists in the area (and) Main Street is known for its restaurants.”
A group of artist-residents have taken on the mission of making the historic mills — now more than 250 units of affordable artist housing — into an Art-A-Whirl hotspot with more than 50 artists on display. In addition to booths and open studios, many residents simply open their door and sell art directly out of their homes.
“Our building is a very fun place to explore,” said Sarah Callahan, an organizer with Artists of the A-Mill, in an email.
In the building whirlers will find Theresa Angelo of Lost and Bound Books in the third-floor atrium. The old-school bookbinder applies medieval binding methods and customizable foil stamping to create hand-bound books and cards.
Sue Mooney is a self-taught artist who creates funky and vibrant portraits of animals wearing goggles, sunglasses or simply a goofy expression under the moniker Wild Barking Moon. Mooney and her canvases will be located on the seventh floor in the clubroom.
Lisa Roy, a wedding photographer by trade who now creates unique landscapes, will open her studio on the fifth floor to whirlers. She has partnered with her neighbor, a woodworker, to create rounded woodprints of her scenes of waterfalls and sunsets.
“I wanted to do something different. They’re totally one-of-kind,” she said.
Stray Dog, chef Kevin Kraus’s takeover of the Nicollet Island-East Bank neighborhood’s Bulldog, will offer food and cocktails in three locations throughout the A-Mill complex.
The community’s performance hall on the first floor and a fourth-floor atrium will host a lineup featuring bands like Alex Kish, BZB Trio, Hot Pink Hangover, Stone Arch Isles, and more.
Where: Northeast Minneapolis studio buildings
When: 5 p.m.–10 p.m. Friday, May 18; noon–8 p.m. Saturday, May 19; noon–5 p.m. Sunday, May 20