Don't-Miss Saturday: Art in the Park

Don't-Miss Saturday: Art in the Park

Published June 8th, 2024 by Katie Dohman

The city's newest free-for-all art festival lets you experience art like never before — at least not in Minneapolis.

Editor's Note: This article was originally written for the June 2024 Art in the Park that took place at Gateway park in Downtown Minneapolis. The July 13th Art in the Park takes place mere blocks away at S 2nd & Marquette. Look for the tents.

Phil Hansen is a former x-ray tech and current artist who has done commercials, commissions, teeny pointillist pieces and large-scale karate-chop art. He has also given a TEDTalk about limitations becoming a source of creativity and also makes a living by public speaking.

He is also the guy who launched Art in the Park—one’s this weekend—which is a something of a laissez-faire approach to an art show: For artists, there are no signups, no fee, no money down, no COD. Artists don’t even have to bring their own table. Whether you’ve shown your work one time or one million times, on Instagram only or in galleries around the Twin Cities, if you have one piece or a portfolio full, you can show your work, and maybe sell it. You just have to show up.

The thing is, running a laissez-faire art fair is anything but easygoing behind the scenes. To make it all happen, Hansen has done the most: Gotten the right permitting, navigated all the tricky and confusing language, purchased tents and twinkle lights to provide shade and make the environment more inviting to nervous customers, taken out extra liability insurance, hired musicians, sourced an artist email list with a little help from an assistant, sent calls out, set up, torn down, cleaned out. He’s also balancing making sure artists and audiences show up without any commitments from anyone.

“I like to give my future self potentially cool but difficult situations. I take action today to screw myself over positively in the future,” he says. “I knew that it would be a ton of work, and I got the email [for the first permit] two-and-a-half weeks before the first event. I was like, ‘I don’t have tents or tables, I have absolutely nothing. But in two weeks I’m hosting Art in the Park,’ and that became the charge.”

The idea harks back to an experience Hansen had as a young artist living in Seattle. “I had a stolen bus pass, I didn’t have a car. I was extremely poor. Putting together a portfolio—getting pictures printed? That would have to wait,” he says. He lived in a tiny studio apartment that housed him and two or three large-scale artworks he had completed.

Then he found the park. “It was called the 'Seattle Arts Walk' or something like that, where maybe 30 years ago people started showing up and sharing their art,” he says. “And more and more people started coming, and then the general public started to know, ‘Hey, that’s where we go to check out art.’ It was a lovely little community; no signup, no cost. If you have something, come down. So, the next month, I had one huge piece and a friend of mine had a pickup and he helped me take it down there. I got there early because I wanted a primo spot. I did a bunch of my own marketing promo, and the artwork I had got on the local news. As a result, I got forgiven for accidentally stealing a regular’s spot.”

After living in Minneapolis for 15 years, Hansen started to crave a bit of a return to that kind of community, and to find a new adventure.

“I was finding myself with the ebb and flow of my own art in a place a few times where if ‘I can think of it, I can make it.’ And then it keeps working over and over, and that sounds nice, but it’s also kind of boring. The excitement of ‘Will it work?’ is gone.” In other words, he says, he has a good job and he’s making art but still wondered else he could try and whether it could work, which comes with its own attendant thrill of not really knowing if it would. Phil knows other artists can suffer from the same restlessness. In fact, he tells me in the course of our interview, something like 90 percent of people stop making art within few years after earning their MFA. There are two parts to that, he says: One is that you likely have a lot of bills to pay if you have an MFA—it’s extremely rare to make a living from art alone—and because sometimes they have a tendency to get overly critical about art, they get in their own way of creation. Then there are the artists who are looking to show, even if they aren’t prolific, or maybe they had a great year last year at juried shows but this year didn’t make a single one. Or there are the artists with the stolen bus passes and empty portfolios waiting to be filled with prints of their work. People have all kinds of reasons why they need an easy way to show their work, to get inspired, to talk to other artists and art lovers.

At the inaugural Art in the Park event in May, the tables were filled and people showed that Hansen didn’t contact or send an email to directly. He expects that will grow at Saturday’s show, where he will also be asking people to be on social media posts—in return they may get $100 from him to shop and buy art. And if you’re reading this and thinking about going, you should know that the first two people who find Hansen after 12:15 PM mention they saw this article and are willing to be featured in a social media video will ALSO get $100 to buy art in the park.  

As for future challenges, Hansen is already planning for the rest of the summer’s shows: “As punishment for my future self, in July I’m going to get a mini donut machine and do free mini donuts.” ◼︎ 


Art In the Park takes place at S 2nd & Marquette in Downtown Minneapolis every 2nd Saturday through September. The July edition takes place July 13th from Noon - 4PM.

Find Art in the Park and other great Summer Art Festivals in our Summer Art Festival Guide



This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. 

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