When I moved to Northeast Minneapolis 20 years ago I was looking for security. Bounced out of maker space from downtown, I was just another statistic in the age-old and seemingly natural progression of derelict space-turned art studio- turned tech firm. All I needed was some place to work and a place to raise the family. I found this little slice of blue-collar paradise in a lower Northeast duplex that, by the luck of the draw, had power and heat in a garage. What’s more, a couple years before, a ragged band of visionary, sage artists had begun work on creating an organized group of creatives to help one another attract ideas and patrons.
Fast forward two decades, and that group, no longer in its infancy, has helped to create one of the most dynamic art districts in the country. All on the strong backs of working artists. With this success, however, have come more interesting problems. Chief among them is to keep art space affordable to newcomers, reliable to mid-career artists and attractive to those rock stars among our lot. This is what drives my work on the Creative Art Center committee that the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District has commissioned.
Eight or so good folks have stepped up in similar fashion to help organize our ideas, take the pulse of the needs of this community and soon to offer a strategic plan for review. The idea is that if a central portal can help facilitate the business of art for artists, a sustainable community may be within reach. Current ideas that are pulling our attention are a virtual (web-based) center that connects folks with arts events and education, artists with space, and passionate instructors with curious students.
Alongside would be a print edition that brings critiques, Requests for Proposals, grants and opportunities from all over the region to our corner of the city.
In the future, a possible bricks and mortar space could help showcase it all. After all, real estate has been at the center of the district’s success.
Our group has been at it only a short five months. Currently, we are drilling down on a mission statement “A space to serve as a hub of arts activity in the district to create, learn, teach, exhibit and connect.”
We have begun work toward a vision of how this mission may take shape. One current concept is a portal that becomes the connective tissue. Something I call “infill.” The idea is to help artists put their resources to work, both in their talents, but also in fully utilizing tools and space. We hope to attract challenging exhibits, lectures and public discourse, cultural exchanges, classes both in technique and criticism as well as providing artist opportunities and workspace options. If we can establish this center online, the administrative structure will exist and a track record can be shown to justify the expense of a physical space.
If you are interested in participating in this workgroup or have concepts to share please contact us through me, Malcom Potek at email@example.com.
—Malcom Potek’s glass work is integral to the lighting at the Ritz Theater and in other businesses. He is part of the group redeveloping the property at 695 Lowry.