Spirit: Made Here. Submitted photo

Best Picks: Dec. 1–Dec. 14

Updated: May 17, 2018 - 3:54 pm

What to do downtown after work

Street art with spirit

Recently, the Hennepin Theatre Trust has quietly been installing art throughout downtown’s storefronts and vacant spaces for the next season of Made Here, a showcase of street and skyway artistry.

The beauty of the project isn’t necessarily that one single piece will wow pedestrians, it’s that an otherwise mundane part — or many parts — of their everyday lives now tells a story. Whether it’s beautifying a bus stop or giving some visual stimulation in the skyway, Spirit: Made Here and its artists add touches of art in the least expected places. At the trust’s future home, otherwise known as the Solera building at Hennepin & 9th, there are now some seriously dramatic shots of horses from Deb Lee Carson. At a bus stop near 7th & Hennepin, neon-colored lights create a spacey room with the aid of mirrors. And that’s just a taste of what to expect.

Spirit kicks off on Thursday, Dec. 8 with an opening event inside City Center’s atrium with live music, an artist market and guided tours. The season will run until next spring.

Since first launching in 2013, the project has produced 336 window displays with the help of nearly 400 artists and students. Now Made Here is the largest program of its kind in the United States, and it’s helped attract businesses to otherwise empty spaces.

We caught up with Joan Vorderbruggen, the director of public art and placemaking for Hennepin Theatre Trust, to talk about the new season. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The Journal: Why the theme of “spirit” this season?

Vorderbruggen: Our Made Here Arts Advisory Panel actually chooses each theme. Spirit was very well liked when it was added to a list that we were brainstorming. Other close runner-ups were “belong” and “changes,” which would have been interesting. Spirit won partly because it could potentially include installations that have a focus on lighting, which is ideal this time of year.

What can we expect from this season of Made Here?

I am especially proud of this run. It’s actually the first time I haven’t been as hands on, so many of the new installations are a delightful surprise to me. We are nearly completed installing, but from what I’ve seen I can tell you that the IDS Center is a highlight on the corner of 8th & Marquette featuring six Made Here artists with big, beautiful displays. In City Center, Oskar Ly and Koua Yang have created a tremendous display of textile art and fashion design rooted in Hmong tradition that is mind-blowing. And Kristi Ternes’ “Beast Spirit” in the Witt Building on 7th & Hennepin is literally out of this world. It’s amazing to walk past it and witness people’s reactions!

What has the response from building owners been like in this and recent seasons?

Ten commercial spaces with a combined vacancy of more than 50 years have acquired leaseholders while participating in Made Here, so we have a great reputation for creating a beneficial situation for property owners. We appreciate their continued support!

Are there standout projects this season?

We are very excited to have Native American artists participating in this run who are addressing issues such as racist mascots, environmental justice and water protection.

Have you begun planning the next season yet?

The open call for Future: Made Here will be available mid-January. With everything our communities are experiencing, I hope this theme inspires artists to participate in meaningful ways.

SPIRIT MADE HERE display 2 submitted web

A fast friend request

Both digital age millennials and Gen X professionals can get something out of speed friending, a new spin on the old concept of speed dating. Misha Estrin, a comedian known locally as the guy holding the “Free Hugs” sign around town, is hosting an event where, as its predecessor goes, people get a few minutes of one-on-one conversation before a bell rings and it’s on to the next would-be connection. But this time it’s platonic. While it sounds a little awkward, maybe there’s something to it. As critics of the younger generations say, maybe we’ve lost some ability for spontaneous, non-algorithmic connections. Let’s throw caution to the wind for once and try meeting someone outside our “People You May Know” section. For new friends, look to Honey — the bar below Ginger Hop on Hennepin Avenue — on Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 6:50 p.m.

The art of the party

While it’s a trek outside of downtown Minneapolis, Five Watt and it’s Joy-Joy Art Sale sound like they’re well worth a little adventure, even if it’s after work. The coffee shop is closing early on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 8 p.m. for a free, 21-plus party featuring pieces of art all priced under $25. For Five Watt fans, there won’t exactly be coffee, but — perhaps even better — the café will have mulled wine, a specialty cocktail made with Du Nord Craft Spirits and snacks from Nighthawks. If that wasn’t enough, there will be fortune telling with Big Mouth Tarot and, for some reason, the shop promises the opportunity to take photos with a 17th-century voyageur named Pierre LaFoote. So pick up some art — a good last-minute gift idea —sip a little wine and get a leg up on your New Year’s resolutions by getting your future told. Proceeds will go to charities like The Trevor Project, the Ann Bancroft Foundation and the Immigration Law Center of Minnesota, among others.