Published July 3rd, 2023 by Blaine Garrett
As we embark on a series highlighting the visual artists and organizations of the Minneapolis neighborhood that MPLSART calls home, we reflect a moment on its unique treasures hidden in plain sight
I moved around quite a bit while attending the University of Minnesota. The seemingly annual ritual of uprooting my life and finding a new place to live was entirely financially motivated. However, every time I lived somewhere new, I always tried to submerge myself in art and community. For example, when I lived near Saint Anthony Main, the Soap Factory was only a few years old and the Guthrie Theater had yet to make its mark on the Mississippi River skyline. However, Pillsbury Park at the head of the Stone Arch Bridge was a great place to hang out and catch a theater troupe rehearsing or engage in lively conversation with a fellow artist also spending the afternoon in the grass sketching the omnipresent ruins. There was a vibe.
Peace Pole, Milwaukee Ave, 2019 (info)
My time there was short lived however. A new lease brought an unaffordable rent increase, and I found myself packing up my life in boxes once again, this time destined for the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis. I didn't know much about Seward aside from a "hippy" stereotype and that my very politically active college friends lived there. Little did I know then that I'd lay down roots and spend the next 20 years of my life in this culturally rich pocket of the city. During this time, some of my favorite concerts were at the Hexagon and Cabooze. My wedding reception was at the Blue Nile. I basically lived at the coffee shops on Franklin for a while. Everyone knows my name at Tracy's Saloon. Some of my greatest friendships have been with neighbors. I'm a fan. Like most areas of the city, the neighborhood has changed a lot over the years but the strong community vibe and the omnipresent arts and creativity have held fast.
Takoda Prep mural on the American Indian OIC building.
Seward may not be the first neighborhood that comes to mind when you think of the arts, but that is because art is so ingrained it's easy to overlook. Northern Clay Center is a nationally renowned ceramic studio drawing residents from all over the world, but you'd be forgiven if you didn't get that impression from its modest facade. Tucked away on the western edge of the neighborhood you'll find the only publicly accessible non-profit glass studio in the state (Foci) next to a contemporary dance studio (Threads Dance Project) and an amazing incubator for Somali artists (Soomaal House of Art). Great literary groups like Boneshaker Books and The Feminist Book Club dot the neighborhood. The Ivy Building houses numerous working artists, organizations, and is home to one of the few local galleries dedicated exclusively to photography (Praxis). More subtly, you'll find the arts entrenched in back yard concert series and ornate front yard gardens. Heck, even Los Campeones, a world renowned body building gym, is full of hand-painted murals. The arts are all over in Seward.
Merwyn, climbable sculpture, Marjorie Pitz, 2004 (info)
Over the course of the next few months, MPLSART will be shining a light on some of the visual artists and organizations based in Seward. With the financial support of the Seward Neighborhood Group's Small Grant Program, we're excited to be able to share with you the great artistic offerings in the neighborhood that MPLSART calls home. We hope you will enjoy the series and learn a little something about this part of the city. ◼︎
Glass cat sculptures, Isaac Theobald, Foci gift shop.
Banner image: Bronze Humpty Dumpty Sculptures, Kimber Fiebiger.
All photos by Blaine Garrett unless otherwise noted.
Articles in the Series
Help keep independent arts journalism alive in the Twin Cities.