The lunchtime tourist

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July 9, 2002 // UPDATED 1:26 pm - April 30, 2007
By: Linda S. Koutsky
Linda S. Koutsky

The Handicraft Guild of Minneapolis 89 South 10th Street

A three-story brick building on 10th Street, looking sad and neglected, was once a hotbed of creativity. The Handicraft Guild presented international exhibits, held chamber concerts and sold its wares in a beautiful giftshop. Art teachers earned their teaching certificates, and people from throughout the area, including Grant Wood, took classes in this Downtown treasure.

Originally known as the Chalk & Chisel Club, the Handicraft Guild began in 1895 and claimed to be the oldest arts and crafts society in the country. In 1907, the guild moved into this building by William Channing Whitney. Whitney designed several other buildings in the Twin Cities, including the Governor's residence.

Once inside the building you can still see paneled wainscoting and heavy wood doors along the wide hallways. It had well-lit studios and a large auditorium with timber beams and a vaulted ceiling. A tearoom and giftshop were open to visitors who affectionately called the area "Little Greenwich Village."

From 1860 to 1915, artists in the international Arts & Crafts Movement rejected 19th-century industrialization by creating finely crafted, handmade objects using natural materials in simplified forms. The Handicraft Guild was known nationally, and Minneapolis was an active participant in the movement. Students in the school worked with a variety of materials and techniques including metalwork, stenciling, print-making, jewelry design, leather tooling, portraiture and pottery with clay that came from Red Wing. After completing a two-year program, students were given diplomas allowing them to teach art in public schools.

The school closed in 1919 and became the Department of Art Education at the University of Minnesota. The building continued to operate as office and studio space for artisans through the 1970s and a few still remain today. It's been designated a local landmark by the city council even though the owner opposed it. This building is a symbol of our artistic heritage and deserves its recognition.

LUNCH TIP: Hell's Kitchen recently opened in what was the guild's giftshop. This eclectic, artful restaurant serves ham and pear sandwiches, a walleye BLT, and spectacular breakfasts. Be sure to check out the Ralph Steadman art on the walls.

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