So, let’s see...what has happened in the arts/development world Northeast since our editorial last year documenting its mid-life lament?
The Lampworks proposal for the former school district headquarters lost out to Hillcrest Development’s proposal, which will be less of an arts destination but still a credible redevelopment. "Corporate" Art Force, an art placement service, dropped the "Corporate," becoming simply Art Force.
Artspace opened Jackson Flats, the first new-built live-work apartment building for artists of all mediums.
The Northeast Library celebrated installing a huge frieze, a photographic mural capturing oodles of Northeast artists’ work, some of it found in public places other than Northeast...a nice testament to the regional, national, international credibility of some of Northeast’s resident artists.
The Sheridan Veterans Memorial Park art installation is underway and will be celebrated at the end of June.
This is a lot of activity. Josh Blanc, my source for internal workings of the Arts District as a structure/concept, tells me there is still a need for younger hands and minds to carry out structure ideas. The district is, after all, more than Art-A-Whirl.
About Art-A-Whirl: Last year, I wrote: "Welcome to Northeast Minneapolis. Art works here. During Art-A-Whirl, it seems everyone gets in the spirit and welcomes visitors who usually combine their trip to see art, with social occasions. What happens at local bars, restaurants, and night spots provides the musical bookend to an otherwise mostly visual arts extravaganza.
Artists who don’t live or work in Northeast pack in during Art-A-Whirl with artists who do live or work here; the outsiders either know someone and agree to split costs, or they rent temporary space. It’s that hot. The word is "to get your art seen and sold, get connected with Art-A-Whirl."
Fast-forward to 2014: I have cringed, along with Arts District diehards, when the three-day event gets called "party-a-whirl." Living near the most densely packed arts and entertainment avenue, I’ll admit it’s turned an unfortunate corner and has
become that. I dread needing to use my street-parked car for any purpose during the event; it’s nuts, there will be no place to park upon return.
An event of this magnitude should provide a huge sales and collector opportunity for serious artists. It’s also, as one artist confided in us, an opportunity for many artists to "give back," to reach out to community whether it be to educate (involve in learning) or simply interact. Arts education is key to Arts District survival.
It doesn’t hurt to have the masses singing the praises of arts even if they don’t totally get it. Northern Spark, a night-time festival which returns to Minneapolis this year, made it okay to swarm to the riverfront and other arts venues and then settle down like smoke-becalmed bees, participating in making art.
This kind of event is so big, you never know what you’ll find or where; that’s why artists with a following send out post cards to their fans saying "start here" and then offering recommendations in person for other destinations.
Kids, and even some adults, learn through play. We continue to support the event even while hoping that the drinking element dials back to dignified. We salute the artists who put in the huge amounts of preparation time, for putting up with the "tire kicker" element. Even the tire kickers help spread the word that we are about arts. To the phrase, "Art works here" we can add, "Art plays here" once in a while.
Originally published in the May 21, 2014 Northeaster