Downtown Dada, of sorts: Hennepin Theatre Trust's Art Salon Series

Downtown Dada, of sorts: Hennepin Theatre Trust's Art Salon Series

Published February 12th, 2024 by Carl Atiya Swanson

Next up on February 22, the one-night event brings together artists, audiences, and organizations for a meeting of the minds

This article is sponsored byHennepin Theater Trust logo


[Update: The February 22 Art Salon has been cancelled. Check @hennepintheatretrust for any updates.]

Urbanist Jane Jacobs once wrote that “new ideas need old buildings,” referring to the space to reuse, experiment, and grow. Old factories and empty storefronts fit the bill, but sometimes so does the Jack Link’s Legend Lounge.

That’s the idea behind the quarterly Art Salon series hosted by Hennepin Theater Trust, with the next iteration coming up on Thursday, February 22, from 5 – 8pm. “We had been doing receptions for artists and you know, receptions for artists attract the friends and family of the artists. And we wanted to build something bigger than that,” says Tanya Gravening, Public Art Manager at the Hennepin Theater Trust. “We started talking about doing art salons, and we're kind of basing them on the Dada art salons. They’re standing on tables yelling, fighting, all that good stuff, but I think what was great about them is the sense of community that they created.”

The series pulls together artists participating in current exhibits and programs across the Hennepin Theater Trust’s art activations, including exhibitions in the gallery spaces adjacent to the Orpheum Theater, and storefront activations across downtown. Rajine Williams, an artist participating in the February Art Salon, whose image Bde Maka Ska is in the window of the Chambers Hotel on Hennepin Avenue as part of the public art programming, is excited for the opportunity for connection and conversation.


Rajine Williams, Bde Maka Ska. Image courtesy of the artist's website.


“I'm thrilled as an artist to have a piece featured in downtown Minneapolis that shines a spotlight on both Black women and the reclaimed land of Minnesota,” Rajine notes. “The prospect of inspiring other artists, activists, and individuals to explore and express untold stories in their own communities adds another layer of significance to this project.”

Also at the Art Salon in February will be musical performances from Pan Dimensions and Des as well as art resource vendors Art to Change the World, Make-A-Wish Minnesota, and Avivo Artworks, plus a guided art activity led by artist T.L. Reeves. Gravening underscores that having different artists and art forms, as well as support organizations, is a key part of the organizing philosophy behind the event. “I think artists work really well when they're able to work with other artists and learn from them. And it's a great way to build your ideas and your knowledge that helps feed the content and your artwork.”


Scenes from the November 2023 Hennepin Theatre Trust Art Salon. Top: Revelers dancing to live music from Gabriela Sweet. Bottom: A performance from Venus de Mars & All The Pretty Horses. Photos courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust.


One of the exhibitions on view during the February Art Salon will be “Wish Art” from a collaboration with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which comes out of Gravening’s own work. One of the offerings from the Minnesota Make-A-Wish Foundation is to partner children with local artists to create unique pieces that are then auctioned off, and Gravening has been a “Wish Artist” for six years. “I always thought it was a shame that the art didn't get to be seen by people outside of Make -A -Wish,” she explains. “The artists donate their time and resources and I thought it would be really cool if we could show the Wish Art in a gallery so the kids have that experience and it gives the artists a little more visibility as well.”

Jes Reyes, a multi-disciplinary artist, filmmaker, and arts consultant that has participated in past Art Salons agrees that this intersection of artists and organizations is valuable. “I have been a participating artist twice now, and I return because it’s a welcoming and community-building experience. It feels like you are hanging out with friends. You can meet new people, try a new art form, listen to music, learn about resources, and check out an art show,” Reyes adds. “There’s a lot to do in two hours, and it’s free!”


More scenes from the November 2023 Art Salon. Top: Cassie Garner of Gamut Gallery. Middle: Tim Carroll, artist, peformer, and Business Relationship Manager for Hennepin Theatre Trust. Bottom: Guests enjoying an interactive Oracle art experience with Julia Caston.


Gravening understands the role that an institution like Hennepin Theater Trust can play in an artist ecosystem, and the opportunities it creates. She states, “We pay the artists to speak. We pay the performers. We pay their resource vendors. We pay the art activity leaders. So it's also a way to create income for artists. Art Salon creates paid opportunities for artists, in addition to introducing them to more people. Of course, it's not just for artists, it's for the community — anybody is welcome to come.”

That attraction to downtown is a need that Gravening also highlights. “That is really the goal of it, to create a community, too. Downtown Minneapolis was hit pretty hard with COVID, construction, and the civil unrest. We're just trying to kind of build something out of the emptiness that was down there.” That continued investment in storefront artwork, in artists, and in expanding creative networks makes for a much more fun and engaging invitation to downtown than complaining about losers with laptops and cat blankets. The sense of community will be there waiting; whether you're moved to stand on a table is entirely up to you. ◼︎ 


The next Art Salon takes place Thursday, February 22, 

To learn more, visit or follow them on Instagram @hennepintheatretrust.

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