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Reasons to Love Minnesota No. 74: Art-A-Whirl

It's one of the greatest affordable art fairs in the country

Northeast Minneapolis is home to the largest open-studio tour in America. Of course we’re talking about Art-A-Whirl, which turned 24 earlier this year. Organized by the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association, the three-day event showcases some 800 artists across 60-plus locations. Live demos, studio talks, and mini-workshops are par for the course and there are countless opportunities to buy affordable art directly from the people who make it.

A first-timer could easily spend all day at the Northrup King Building, taking in works by the 300 local artists inhabiting four floors of the century-old seed warehouse. Highlights include textured handmade pottery and shapely organic ceramics by Liz Pechacek, Ani Kasten, Amy Von Bargen, and Ashley Hise; cosmic resin paintings by Yellow Sleeves; jumbo shoulder-dusting tassel earrings by Perennial; happy-go-lucky dot planters from A Mano; enchantingly moody paintings by Anna Chambers-Goldberg; giant papier-mâché moon heads from Tom Fletcher; strikingly architectural hats from milliner extraordinaire Celina Kane; delicate concrete jewelry by Koon Yai Studio; the layered pastel landscapes of Colleen Elizabeth; and the minimalist wildlife paintings of colorblind artist Matthew Rucker.

Two pieces that came home with us after that first Art-A-Whirl and continue to hold court in our South Minneapolis living room are the haunting beauties at the top of this post, painted by Lowertown artist Justin Wade Patrick. They are part of his ongoing American El Dorado series, which highlights “individuals from the Depression grasping for those dreams that lied just over the next hill, the next corner, or next sunset.” These two women, in particular, were inspired by old WPA images—and yet they feel so now.

Elsewhere at Northrup King, we enjoyed peeking into the creative studios of Ashley Mary and Minny and Paul. The most inspiring new addition, however, was Studio 400, which features emerging artists under 30; priority is given to people of color or indigenous backgrounds. We were gobsmacked by the talent showcased here, including paintings by rising art stars Lissa Karpeh and Maiya Lea Hartman.

In two straight years of Art-A-Whirling, we’ve found a lot to love at other participating venues, too. “Weirdly Positive Positively Weird” at Co Exhibitions introduced us to the eye-popping graphic artwork of Minneapolis artist Jose Dominguez. Pop-up gallery Repurpose at 700 Central showcased brilliant and haunting sculptures by Sarah Nicole Knutson. Exhibitions at the Casket Arts Building and Carriage House had us swooning over Kim Heidkamp‘s masterfully textured paper art and Pete Driessen‘s monumental trestle sculptures. And “A View From Flyover Country,” a photography show jurored by National Geographic powerhouse Jim Brandenburg at the MPLS Photo Center, was a good reminder of why we moved here and continue to be proud, humbled, and grateful to be surrounded by so many talented artists.