Though only a few storefronts long, this intersection is a hotbed for creativity. Credit: Photo by Linda Koutsky

Hot intersections: West 21st Street & Penn Avenue South

What I love about Minneapolis are all the little pocket commercial districts tucked into residential neighborhoods throughout the city. The one- and two-story buildings are often faced with red brick, decorated with terra cotta architectural ornament, and punctuated with large expanses of glass.

Storefronts welcome customers with tantalizing window displays and colorful signage then encourage us to come in through recessed entrances and doors with transom windows overhead. Even though we’re home to two giant big box retailers, it’s nice to know neighborhood shopping is alive and well here.

Fine art thrives at the corner of 21st & Penn. Just blocks off the north end of Lake of the Isles is a quaint block and a half commercial district. Across from an elementary school, this intersection has always been bustling.

A bookstore owned by an author will never disappoint. We are particularly lucky to have BIRCHBARK BOOKS (2115 W. 21st St.) here in Minneapolis. Not only has internationally best selling author Louise Erdrich stocked the shelves with great treasures, but the walls and display cases are filled with stunning artwork too from birchbark applique to sterling silver feather earrings. Birchbark tree trunks, hand-harvested wild rice, Native American crafts, and a stellar selection of books fill the store. Pick up a signed copy of one of Louis’s many books, including The Round House, her National Book Award winner. Her next book, LaRose, will be out May 10. Books sold here will include a copy of a page of the original hand-written manuscript.

This longstanding Minneapolis gallery has roots in the 1980s warehouse district art scene. Today, the BOCKLEY GALLERY (2123 W. 21st St.) represents many of Minnesota’s major artists such as George Morrison, Stuart Nielsen, Frank Big Bear, Julie Buffalohead, and occasionally, the visual work of Louise Erdrich. Showing through March 19 are drawings by Lauren Roche. In her first solo exhibit this Jerome Artist Fellow displays vividly hued imagery of mysteriously merging figures and animals.

It’s not only about custom frames at FRAMESTYLES (2107 Penn Ave. S), but for the record, they have a vast selection of unique frame moldings and mats you won’t find in other places. Need a frame for that recent special photo? Check out their distinctive collection of premade 5 by 7 and 8 by 10 photo frames. Framestyles can frame art or more unusual pieces too such as textiles, jerseys, and handmade chalkboards. Custom made acrylic boxes can be ordered for three-dimensional memorabilia. They also do conservation work including cleaning and repairing on both paintings, photos, and carved frames. And if that wasn’t enough for a frame store, they also carry a full line of giftware, candles, greeting cards, and work by local artists.

Have you always wanted to paint but were afraid to try? ARTRAGEOUS ADVENTURES (2121 W. 21st St.) is a multipurpose art studio. Weekends are set aside for custom adult parties for up to 12 guests. Sip on libations and make a painting with step-by-step guidance from a pro. These popular painting parties are cropping up everywhere and are a great way to get people together for a graduation celebration, baby shower, or team building. During the week the studio offers after-school programs, teen craft parties, and custom birthday parties. It’s time to create, play, and party with your friends — age is irrelevant here.

Enjoy your neighborhood outing! 

LUNCH TIP: It can’t get any cozier than sitting at a sofa table surrounded by oversized plaid wallpaper at THE KENWOOD (2115 W. 21st St.). Brunch and dinner ranging from pancakes to burgers to wild boar are available every day except Mondays.