Northeast Minneapolis’ Art-A-Whirl was buzzing with activity and attitude last weekend. It was their 17th annual event featuring the community’s artists and their work, hosted by NEMAA (Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association). I can imagine how much work prepping for this entails, but I’m also guessing most artists are happy not to have to pack up their wares and set up at the weekend’s hottest local art show, as they do most summer weekends. The format – viewing the artists and their work in studio – allows people to ask questions about process and get a glimpse into their creative environment.
My 8-yr-old daughter Ava and I arrived around 1:00. It was sunny and steamy. We started on the Westside of Northeast and picked up our art show passport at the Keg House Arts Building. Nicky Torkzadeh Works’ bright, fluid paintings caught my daughter’s eye immediately. I talked with an artist from Trade Winds, a jeweler with an edge for hobo chic. Then we wandered into Clay Squared to Infinity.
Clay Squared’s logo with a exponential “2” and rocket ship blasting off implied they were in the business of having fun with clay. The shop showcases so many unique patterns and potential combinations from address numbering to switchplates, it was hard not to imagine design possibilities. As we discovered the workspace areas in the store, we came upon artist and co-owner, Layl McDill. She had appeared on CBS local TV earlier that morning – see the video that shows the millefiore technique where the clay design formation goes from large to small when stretched.
Ava and I saw it first-hand and asked a lot of questions. It was truly impressive to see the tiny pieces that comprised the completed piece, some of which measured three feet squared with wires, puzzle pieces and creative expression attached. While we watched, she worked on the cowardly lion and tin man from the Wizard of Oz. The results were whimsical with fine detail based on familiar children’s stories, often with a twist. We observed for a while and bought three magnets (3 for $15) to give as birthday gifts to Ava’s friends. We took Layl’s card. She does birthday parties and age 10 is the perfect age for clay exploration.
We left the Keg House and headed a few blocks east on 13th Street where we discovered Who Made Who, a design studio and screen print emporium. Any studio with an AC/DC reference and an owl logo was certain to draw me in. We flipped through some prints and moved on when the little shop became crowded. Just to the next store though — Fried Bologna Vintage. Again, the name got us. Ava found board games and other trinkets of intrigue. I told her to save her money. It also got me thinking I could dig up something similar stowed away in storage boxes at home.
We checked our NEMAA directory and hit up a furniture store on the corner next to Chow Girls Killer Catering and kept on in search of food and music. A series of houses with golden yellow-painted porches and indie rock singers later, we strolled into Erte for a lemonade and a quick check on time. It was already 3:00 and we were due home by 4:00. We split a pulled pork sandwich for $8 as we people-watched, voting on most artistic expression. The woman with the black shag knee-high boots and hot pink shorts pulling a pink plastic wagon with a 2-yr-old on her hip got our vote.
It was time to call it a Whirl. There was no time for my typical stops to the California Building or Northrup King. I’m sure we missed a lot of art and demos. Some young sidewalk artists – like age 7 or so – were selling goods of interest to Ava. She bought a $1 shiny silver and blue pen designed by them. We then came upon a salon and toyed with getting hair extensions because my husband and son were getting buzzcuts we did not yet approve of. Not happening today, however, now we know where to go if we change our minds.
On the short walk to our car, we noticed Nice Ride bikes being hauled in by the trailer-full. A group of a dozen bikers asked me to take their photo. I obliged. It was an easy-going, family-friendly day in the neighborhood. As we left the event, we saw the Pedal Pub in action – a pub powered by its patrons’ pedaling. It made our Northeast outing complete. We’ll be back next year for easy access to artists and we’ll be sure to plan more time for less of a whirlwind tour.