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Hennepin Theatre Trust unveils “WeDo” cultural district

Updated: November 24, 2015 - 3:54 pm

If you’re going to a show or art gallery in downtown Minneapolis, you’re most likely in WeDo.

The Hennepin Theatre Trust and other partners are launching a newly branded cultural district called WeDo (pronounced “we-doo”) or the West Downtown Cultural District. The district recognizes art, music and entertainment venues between a nearly two-mile stretch between the Walker Art Center and the Mississippi River and 1st Avenue and Nicollet Mall.

Officials hope by uniting this stretch of downtown Minneapolis under one identity they can make it move active, evening out the often haphazard experience of walking down Hennepin Avenue. The Trust created the district over the past five years thanks to a creative place-making grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The city signed off on the project more than two years ago. 

“We are trying to set the stage so a lot of things can happen,” said Tom Hoch, the Trust’s CEO and president. “It’s a little fragmented, so this is a unifying thing.”

The long-term vision of the branding initiative is to create a walkable center of arts, culture and activity that’s greater than the sum of its parts, Hoch said. He envisions a district where theatergoers in the theater district can also see a dance performance at the Cowles Center or walk through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in Loring Park, rather than heading home after a single outing in just one area. 

“By creating this larger playground we enable people to do three, four, five things when they’re down here,” he said. 

Signage within the district will begin to appear next summer. While there won’t necessarily be WeDo-branded projects, the Trust already has several projects going on within the district such as Made Here, which has a similar goal in keeping downtown Minneapolis continuously active. 

This year the Trust has already played a part in bringing two large murals to Hennepin Avenue, including Eduardo Kobra’s Bob Dylan piece on 5th Street and Greg Gossel’s pop art mural on 10th Street. Hoch said they’re hoping to have artists paint two more murals by next summer. They’re also planning 38 artfully designed crosswalks within WeDo under Curb Appeal and a colorful I-94 underpass with LED lights with Tunnel Vision. 

“We’re an arts organization. Our primary lens is art and culture. So the way that we looked at is that we could make this a better place by connecting all of these different components using arts and culture. Every block is a great block because it’s connected to art and culture,” he said. 

While the name may not catch on for a few years, Hoch said, the Trust is taking the first step by raising awareness Nov. 18 with free coffee, merchandise, improv games and free theater tours.

For more information on WeDo visit its recently launched website at www.wedompls.com.

Minneapolis-based artist Greg Gossel painted a mural on Hennepin & 10th this November. Photo by Eric Best.

 

Trust launches Made Here: Reflection

As it launches WeDo, the Trust is also preparing to launch the fifth season of Made Here around the theme of reflection. Made Here: Reflection, which launches Dec 3, features 45 new window displays by more than 60 Minnesota artists and 20 students.

Joan Vorderbruggen, who, as the Trust’s Cultural Arts District coordinator, puts together the showcase, said the Trust is continuing from last winter’s Made Here: Brilliance with another light-oriented theme for the city’s dark season.

Made Here, the country’s largest showcase of storefront window art, also spotlights vacant or less active spaces in downtown Minneapolis buildings and storefronts. Five previous spaces in the program have acquired leases despite a combined 35 years of sitting vacant, Vorderbruggen said.

“Our downtown needs a lot of love,” she said.

This season will expand Made Here to Mall of America where 13 artists have transformed about 300 feet of wall space. In total, about 100 artists have touched Reflection, she said.

One noticeable difference with Reflection will be the gadgets and electronics. Several artist will be using projects, digital installations and televisions to display their work across downtown Minneapolis. For example, the “Selfie MADE or Self MADE” project from ADDAM & Omen at 730 Hennepin Ave. will engage with participants on social media to visualize selfies, gif images and typography.

“Technology has arrived to Made Here,” Vorderbruggen laughed.

Stephanie Glaros will also be bringing her photography to a TV screen. The Humans of Minneapolis blogger and photographer, in a similar vein of the wildly popular Humans of New York blog, plans to bring her candid profile work from her blog to a screen at Hennepin & 8th. For someone who highlights the stories of everyday people, a public art showcase was a natural fit for Glaros.

“As soon as I learned about [Made Here] I knew that I wanted to be a part of it,” Glaros said. “It’s just a great way of bringing art to the streets and to people rather than going to gallery space to experience art.”

Made Here: Reflection will run through March 30 next year.

Work by Leslie Barlow for Made Here