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"Spirit: Made Here" Is Initiative's Latest Installation in Downtown Minneapolis Storefronts

The Hennepin Theatre Trust recently launched the seventh season of its window art installation series, Spirit: Made Here. Consisting of more than 30 window displays filling empty storefronts and commercial spaces in downtown Minneapolis, the project’s installations include an array of art mediums including painting, paper sculpting, photography, fiber art, three-dimensional mixed media, video and an interactive light show. The window art is on display in a six-block stretch between 6th Street and 10th Street from Hennepin Avenue to Marquette Avenue.
 
Founded in 2013, Made Here is the brainchild of the Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Cultural District Arts Coordinator, Joan Vorderbruggen. Working with the program’s panel, building owners, artists and the community, Vorderbruggen and her team curate and create a walkable, interactive showcase of emerging artists. “We are proud that we often times give opportunities to artists who may have never exhibited before,” says Vorderbruggen.
 
Made Here also focuses on bringing art to new and unexpected audiences, and increasing the public’s awareness of downtown Minneapolis as a cultural destination. Additionally, it seeks to create a downtown that is representative of people from diverse cultures and backgrounds.
 
On average, 40 percent of Made Here’s artists come from communities of color, with balanced gender representation. “Our panel is diverse, and actively networks in order to authentically invite different community members to participate,” Vorderbruggen explains. “A great secret to our success is having that big, diverse group.”
 
In this installment of Made Here, more than 75 Minnesota artists and students created art interpreting the theme of spirit. “Spirit: Made Here is filled with light, puppetry, images, projections, social justice and environmental justice,” says Vorderbruggen. “I'm really pleased that Made Here is a function of the community that it serves. When you think about downtown, it’s for everyone. We're all here. It's ours and we all share it.”
 
Spirit: Made Here is on display now through March 30, 2017. View an interactive walking tour map from Made Here’s website.
 
 
 
 

Walker Art Center's new entrance a cultural and community gathering spot

How does one merge the architectural styles of the Walker Art Center’s two buildings to create a new, welcoming entrance overlooking the famous Sculpture Garden? This was the challenge presented to architect Joan Soranno, a design principal at HGA Architects and Engineers, and her design team nearly four years ago.
 
“One of the things the Walker told us from the very beginning is that they didn’t want a third charm on the charm bracelet,” Soranno explains. “Meaning they have the original [1971] Edward Larabee Barnes building—the brick building, and they have the [Herzog & de Meuron] building built in 2005—a very different style to the Barnes building.”
 
Soranno and her design partner, architect John Cook, led the Walker redesign project, which includes the building’s front entry foyer off of Vineland Place, the adjacent parking ramp, and Esker Grove, a new restaurant by chef Doug Flicker opening in mid-December.
 
The main priority of the new entrance remodel was integrating the inside with the outside. This union is evident inside the parking ramp, where you can now see out onto Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Spoonbridge and Cherry. It is also notable in the extra windows added to the Bazinet Garden Lobby overlooking the Sculpture Garden.
 
“We’re trying to make the building a lot more accessible, a lot more inviting, with a lot more daylight and lots of views to the gardens—we’re trying to really integrate both the architectural experience with the landscape experience,” says Soranno.
 
Situated between the Sculpture Garden and the building itself, the new entrance on Vineyard Place acts as a community gathering spot. “This is why I like doing these types of projects,” Soranno says. “This project reinforces the Walker as one of the most significant cultural hubs in this nation with an entry experience that reinforces people coming together—whether for a meal, or to see a show, or for somebody who wants to be out in the garden.”
 

Minneapolis' C-TAP: Free Assistance for Co-Op Founders

The City of Minneapolis is launching a free technical assistance program for budding co-op founders, starting with a two-hour presentation on April 20th.
 
Dubbed C-TAP (Cooperative Technical Assistance Program), the initiative is an outgrowth of the city’s successful B-TAP (Business Technical Assistance Program) for aspiring small and midsize business owners. Like B-TAP, C-TAP is an immersive program designed to support co-op founders and supporters from ideation through opening—and, in some cases, beyond.
 
According to the City of Minneapolis, C-TAP will unfold over three years, in three steps.
 
Step one, happening this year, focuses on “co-op readiness planning” for “groups that are thinking of forming a Co-op…to get a clear picture of the legal, operational and organizational requirements.” It’s basically a crash course in what it means to start a co-op.
 
Step two, set for next year, will focus on “board member and organizational design.” That means training prospective board members in the basics (and nuances) of co-op governance, as well as “one-on-one technical assistance” for select co-ops that require guidance designing their organizational structures. Step two is available to not-yet-open co-ops and existing co-ops that want or need outside assistance.
 
Step three, set for 2018, will revolve around “sustainability [and] profitability.” In other words, setting and keeping newly opened co-ops on the path to stable, long-term profitability and prosperity.
 
C-TAP’s kickoff event, a two-hour presentation dubbed “The State of Co-ops in Minneapolis,” is scheduled for April 20, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at Open Book in Downtown East. The presentation will discuss the city’s current “co-op inventory” and the industries supported by Minneapolis co-ops, introduce and explain C-TAP, and discuss next steps for co-op founders and principals interested in participating.
 
On May 11, Step one officially gets underway with an eight-week “co-op feasibility” course. Held at the City of Minneapolis Innovation Center in the Crown Roller Mill Building near City Hall, the course’s eight sessions will cover the basics of the co-op development process, co-op business plans, finances, cooperative governance, legalities and other topics. Registration is free and open to the public, but prospective co-op groups need to have at least two participants and have selected a product or service to offer prior to signing up.
 
The City of Minneapolis is no stranger to co-op support. According to city government, Minneapolis has plowed some $3.5 million into local co-ops through existing development and support initiatives, and has an additional $850,000 outstanding in loans to three in-development co-ops—including Wirth Cooperative Grocery, a first-of-its-kind grocery co-op in the city’s underserved Northside, slated to open later this year.
 

Brazilian muralist paints Bob Dylan mural in downtown Minneapolis

Last week, city music fans and cultural mavens were abuzz about news that Eduardo Kobra, an internationally acclaimed Brazilian muralist, would begin working on a five-story mural of Bob Dylan on the west façade of the 15 Building at Fifth Street and Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. As the painting commenced, passersby marveled at the color and artistry — as well as the speed with which Kobra and his team materialized the mural.
 
Kobra is reportedly renowned for his bright color palette and bold use of line. His work also often pays homage to people with a particular association with a city or place, which is why he selected Dylan. (Kobra is also a fan.) Three Brazilian and two Minnesota-based artists helped with the production.
 
“Eduardo Kobra’s new mural will add an invigorating and colorful international artwork to the downtown Cultural District and Hennepin Avenue,” says Tom Hoch, president and CEO, Hennepin Theatre Trust, Minneapolis. The mural is a project of the Hennepin Theatre Trust. “At the same time, it celebrates Bob Dylan, who is not only one of Minnesota’s most admired native sons, but also a former owner of the Trust’s Orpheum Theatre.”
 
Dylan owned the Orpheum Theatre from 1979 to 1988 with his brother David Zimmerman. The 74-year-old icon from Hibbing has performed frequently at the Orpheum including three consecutive shows last fall. The Orpheum, located on Hennepin Avenue, is just down the street from the mural site, so its presence has particular resonance for Hennepin Avenue and for Hennepin Theatre Trust, which currently owns the Orpheum.
 
“Kobra was collaboratively selected for this project,” Hoch says. “Various people and muralists were under consideration, and Kobra soon became the obvious choice because he is renowned internationally, has a wonderfully colorful palette and great street credentials.”

The 15 Building is currently owned by R2 Companies and AIMS Real Estate, a business unit of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, which was involved in Kobra’s selection. The 15 Building is an historic Art Deco office tower constructed in the 1920s. More recently, it has become home to many creative loft-office users including Channel Z, Hunt Atkins, Bloom Health and Assemble.
 
 

SPRC's 4th annual Placemaking Residency focuses on healthy cities

 
“The connection between place and health isn’t an intuitive one,” says Patrick Seeb, executive director, St. Paul Riverfront Corporation (SPRC). The fourth annual Placemaking Residency hosted by SPRC, May 11-15, hopes to forge that connection in the Twin Cities.
 
Titled “Moving the Twin Cities to Better Health,” the weeklong event will explore the relationship between urban design and population health through workshops, walking and biking tours, presentations and social events. Events will take place on St. Paul’s East Side, along University Avenue and in the Ecodistrict in Downtown St. Paul, as well as in the East Downtown area of Minneapolis and the South Loop of Bloomington.
 
“Well be out in the community, moving around the Twin Cities throughout the day and into the evening, in order to be interdisciplinary and so that participants — including urban planners, community activists, health experts and policy makers — can find different ways to engage,” Seeb says.
 
In past years, the residency has featured one key speaker focusing on a single topic. Last year the focus was on walkability and bikeability in the cities. The year before, the residency topic was place as a driver of economic investment. The first year, arts and culture as a strategy for place was the focus.
 
This year, three residents — all from the San Francisco area — will “enrich the conversation,” Seeb explains. Dr. Richard Jackson is the author of Designing Healthy Communities and the host of the PBS series of the same name. “He’s made a career out of studying the built environment and its impact on health,” Seeb says.
 
Gehl Studio is the San Francisco-based office of Gehl Architects. The firm’s work is cross-disciplinary, and incorporates architecture, urban design and city planning in projects around the world. “The studio focuses on changes we can make right now,” Seeb says. “Rather than thinking about long-term change, the studio specializes in immediate solutions. The Open Streets movement came out of their shop.”
 
The third resident, Dr. Anthony Iton, is senior vice president for healthy communities at The California Endowment. “His work helps people understand geographic, racial and wealth disparities throughout the U.S.,” Seeb explains. “He’ll present data about how your zip code can predict your expected lifespan.”
 
“In the past 40 to 50 years, the focus on cars, people feeling unsafe walking or biking to work or school, and food deserts are among the concerns that have emerged relating to health and cities,” Seeb says. “There’s a whole field of thinking that says we can change all that; that we can reduce childhood obesity if neighborhoods and streets are safe for kids to walk or bike to school, where they have access to healthy fresh local food.”  
 
“With this placemaking residency focused on healthy cities, we hope to expose people to the topic and get them to look at MSP and the choices we make in our cities through the lens of health,” Seeb continues. “The question is: How can we be much more intentional about creating a safe and healthy future in our cities?”
 
 

Lakes & Legends brings Belgian micro-brews to Loring Park

 
MSP’s craft-beer boom still shows no sign of slowing down. Opening this summer, in a 12,000-square-foot space in LPM Apartments — a 36-story apartment tower recently completed in the Loring Park neighborhood of downtown Minneapolis — is Lakes & Legends Brewing Company.
 
“Consumers keep flocking to craft beer,” says Ethan Applen, co-founder and CEO of Lakes & Legends. “It’s partly an extension of growing interest in local foods and peoples’ desire to know what’s they’re putting into the bodies. But for us, Lakes & Legends is also an opportunity to go deeper. We think there are brewing opportunities where we can grow.”
 
In particular, Lakes & Legends will focus on Belgian and farmhouse-style ales. The former, Applen explains, are “more improvisational. The beer goes back centuries to when monks in Belgium started brewing with what was on hand. The flavor profile has a lot of flexibility and appeals to even non-beer drinkers.”
 
The farmhouse style, he continues, “comes from farms in northern France and Belgium. Farmers would brew beers in the winter with whatever was left over from the harvest, and again that’s where the improvisational piece comes in: barley and rosemary, wheat and lavender.”
 
Lakes & Legends ingredients will be local and organic whenever possible, to find “a balance between the recipe we want to make and what’s available,” Applen says. He’s especially excited to source from MSP’s diverse ethnic growers.
 
“We’re looking at the Hmong community and culture. Ginger, citrus and hot peppers, which they grow and use in their cuisine, are all ingredients we can use in our beer. International ingredients from a local community!”  
 
Applen's father and wife, Katie Kotchka, are from Minnesota. He grew up in Southern California and has lived in LA for 15 years. His background is in startups and entertainment, and he’s worked for Disney and Warner Bros., where he innovated new businesses. He’s been traveling back and forth for the last year, and will be moving to MSP in May.
 
Lakes & Legends co-founder Derrick Taylor, Applen’s brother-in-law, is a Minnesota native and MSP resident who has managed the Red Bull Crashed Ice event in St. Paul. Lakes & Legends' head brewer, Andrew Dimery, comes to MSP by way of Bluegrass Brewing Company in Louisville, KY, and Sun King Brewery in Indianapolis, IN. Lakes & Legends will not have a kitchen, but will partner with local restaurants and food trucks to bring local eats to the taproom.
 
“We want to be part of a community,” Applen says, which why he and Taylor selected the LPM building. They looked around Northeast Minneapolis and the Midway area of St. Paul. But they felt LPM and the Loring Park area are “a great part of Minneapolis, cool and upbeat, with tons of residents, and with breweries near by but not over served.”
 
The brewery and taproom, he adds, “will be a resource for community gatherings and events. We want it to be a comfortable space, a third space away from home and work, where people can come and hang out.”
 

"Inspired at Blu" brings student design to downtown Mpls

 
Now showing on the large digital wall in the swanky lobby of the Radisson Blu Minneapolis Downtown is a selection of work by Michelle Bowitz, a senior in the graphic design BFA program in the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. In a novel collaboration, the hotel and the college have created an artist-in-residence program called “Inspired at Blu.” Bowitz was the first student artist selected.
 
About her work, Bowitz says: “Curiosity and motivation keep me learning and growing as a designer everyday. All of my work speaks to who I am today; pulling from personal experiences and techniques I have learned throughout my years studying design. Minneapolis has been an incredible source of creativity and inspiration. I’m extremely excited to continue my life’s journey living, working and exploring in this beautiful city.”
 
Every six weeks, Blu’s digital wall — a design focal point in the hotel lobby — will come alive with a different student’s display. “Inspired at Blu” will rotate through all of the design programs in the college, including architecture, landscape architecture and product design. After Bowitz's graphic designs, "Inspired at Blu" will show work from the college's apparel design program. The collaboration is the first between a hotel and the college.
 
“It is important to us that our guests experience a true sense of place when they visit and we wanted to not only elevate that experience, but also further connect with the vivacious art community that Minneapolis boasts,” said Steven Lindburg, general manager, Radisson Blu Minneapolis Downtown, in a press release. “We are thrilled to be partnering with the College of Design, University of Minnesota, to provide emerging artists a platform to showcase their original art within the city.”
 
The jurors who selected Bowitz’s work include Radisson Blu Minneapolis Downtown management; College of Design faculty; Emmet Byrne, design director, Walker Art Center; Heather Soladay Olson, founder and marketing director, Soladay Olson | Marketing for Creatives; and Barbara Redmond, creative director & designer, Barbara Redmond Design.

Later this spring, the hotel hopes to expand "Inspired at Blu" to gallery spaces in the skyway to show 3D work.
 
 

Pillsbury A Mill transformed into 21st-century hub for artists

More than a decade after Minneapolis’ historic Pillsbury A Mill closed, capping the city’s reign as the country’s flour-milling capital, the four-building mill complex—which includes the iconic limestone A Mill—is once again becoming a hub of innovation and industry, this time driven by artists. The developer Dominium, which recently transformed St. Paul’s 1890 Schmidt’s Brewery into Schmidt Artists Lofts, is completing the adaptive reuse of the milling complex with BKV Group into the A-Mill Artist Lofts.
 
The first phase, Warehouse 2, a four-story, wood-frame building next to The Soap Factory, has been open since December and includes 43 living units, says David Lepak, community manager, A-Mill Artist Lofts. The 1881 A Mill designed by architect Leroy Buffington, the south A Mill cleaning house, and the 1910 elevator known as the “red-clay-tile building,” will be open for occupancy in August.
 
“Dominium knows there’s a need for affordable artists’ housing, and we’ve been successful with other projects in St. Paul and St. Louis,” Lepak says. The complex, which will be LEED certified, includes 255 living units designed for qualifying artists. To support artists’ work, the complex includes galleries, a performance and rehearsal space, and studios for dancers, visual and multi-media artists, photographers and potters.
 
“The neighborhood is already highly populated with artists,” says Lepak, referring to the Marcy-Holmes and Northeast neighborhoods. The transformed A Mill complex will further “drive people to the area for creative resources, and bring untapped resources to an already existing artists community with theaters and galleries.”
 
BKV Group, a Minneapolis architectural firm, has been working with Dominium on the project. The design team started by conducting laser scans of the buildings, to determine where structures and floors didn’t line up, and where components were missing. In addition to shoring up exterior masonry, structural repairs included new steel support columns (particularly in the limestone A Mill), floor decking and joist repairs, and leveling the floors.

The project was made possible through historic tax credits, because the A Mill is on the National Register of Historic Places. As such, the renovation was closely scrutinized by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the National Park Service. In particular, the red-tile building—a former grain elevator—doesn’t have openings on the first eight floors, and none could be created. “It’s like a crawl space and we treated it that way,” explains John Stark, project architect, BKV Group.
 
The 27 new living units, instead, are on floors 8-12, and were designed around the existing openings, “which means each unit is unique,” Stark says. In the basement, the architects created a gathering space, fitness room and connections to the two-level parking garage. New outdoor landscaping around the railroad tracks is in the works.
 
The new complex will also have a roof garden with panoramic views of the Mississippi River and downtown Minneapolis, Stark says, and the landmark Pillsbury’s Best Flour sign is being redone in LED lights for greater energy efficiency.
 
Dominium is also considering the use of a hydroelectric heating and cooling system for the complex, using water from the nearby river. The water would enter through an existing tunnel, drop into a turbine pit and generate power to operate the complex. The initiative “would make the complex largely self-sustaining,” Stark says.
 
The project has significant merit regardless. “We’ve helped put the buildings back on the tax rolls, and created a new source of industry that tells the character of what Minneapolis was and is today,” Stark says. Lepak agrees, adding that the new A-Mill Artist Lofts “will add tremendously to the further development of an economically vibrant area of Minneapolis.”
 
 

Herbivorous Butcher plans first meatless “butcher” shop

Following a successful summer at the Minneapolis Farmers Market, the Herbivorous Butcher is moving ahead with plans to open a brick-and-mortar location to sell its “meatless meats.”
 
From ropes of “pepperoni” hanging from the ceiling to the black-and-white tile lining the walls, the new butcher shop envisioned by Aubry Walch and scheduled to open next year will have all the hallmarks of an old-time butcher—except the meat.
 
The Herbivorous Butcher cleared the coolers during its June opening weekend at the Market. Despite consistently upping production, Walch says she’s sold out her inventory every weekend since.
 
“We keep making more batches and we just can’t keep up with demand,” says Walch, who started the business with her business partner and brother Kale Walch.
 
To better feed the demand, the siblings plan to open the Twin Cities’ first meatless butcher shop in early 2015. They’re currently working with Studio M Architects, which designed the Wise Acre Eatery, to replicate the idyllic atmosphere of a traditional butcher shop. “We hope to take people back in time when they come in,” Walch says.
 
Aubry Walch’s been a strict vegetarian for 18 years. Her brother Kale is vegan. After wearying of available meatless options—which are often frozen, and contain loads of sodium and long lists of unrecognizable ingredients—they began concocting their own meat alternatives from locally sourced whole food ingredients.
 
They decided to put their culinary acumen to the test and enlisted 10 test groups that included vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters for an eight-week stint of food testing. The results, Walch says, were resoundingly positive.
 
It’s not just vegetarians and vegans gobbling up the inventory. Walch estimates that at least 60 percent of their customers are full-blooded carnivores discovering healthier meat alternatives for the first time.
 
The main ingredient in almost all of the products is vital wheat gluten sourced from Whole Grain Milling Co. in Welcome, MN.  Even though the product is 95 percent protein, it’s extremely low in carbohydrates and fat, and is cholesterol free.
 
“We have people who come to us because they have heart disease or diabetes…and they can’t eat meat anymore,” Walch says. “We’re the perfect alternative for them and they seek us out.”
 
There’s no shortage of meat-free protein alternatives on co-op shelves in the Twin Cities, but the Herbivorous Butcher has uncovered a serious hunger for handmade and locally sourced meatless meat. Every item sold at the Herbivorous Butcher is made fresh by hand in small batches from locally sourced whole food ingredients and is never frozen.
 
Thus far the meatless mainstays at the Herbivorous Butcher include pepperoni, Italian sausage, barbecue ribs, deli bologna and teriyaki jerky. Once the new shop is up and running, other market specials including Mexican chorizo, maple sage breakfast sausage and beer brats will be available.
 
Finding the right investors has been somewhat of a struggle, Walch says. The problem isn’t a lack of interest; it’s that many see a lucrative opportunity and want the meatless butchers to automate all their production, freeze their products and distribute nation-wide. Walch isn’t willing to sacrifice the artisanal approach and reliance on local ingredients that going so big would require.
 
Instead, the Herbivorous Butcher is taking the crowd funding approach, and will launch a campaign later this fall.
 
 

GYST gets it together for new fermentation bar

A new gastronomic trend hits Minneapolis’ Eat Street area later this year. GYST Fermentations, a first-of-its-kind fermentation bar from foodie sisters Mel and Kylene Guse, will be “a celebration of all things fermented.”

GYST is a lot more than just wine and cheese—although the sisters, along with partner Jill Mott (an internationally certified and widely respected sommelier), plan to introduce plenty of rare wines and cheeses to the Twin Cities. The bar will feature everything from kombucha to charcuterie, beer and coffee, chocolate and yogurt creations and more. If fermentation is involved, and you can eat it or drink it, you’re likely to find it at GYST.

“We really want to try and bring in products that people haven’t necessarily seen here in Minnesota,” says Mel Guse.

Natives of Sioux Falls, S.D., the sisters’ experienced their fermentation initiation while living in the food-forward San Francisco area. While there, Mel also became a certified sommelier through the International Sommelier Guild. Both sisters worked for Bi-Rite Market—a progressive local foods market started by esteemed chef Sam Mogannam.

Looking to return to their Midwestern roots, the sisters moved to the Twin Cities in 2012 and Mel Guse helped get Broders’ Terzo Vino Bar up and running in Minneapolis.

GYST will feature a 14-person bar as well as table seating. Guse says they hope to cultivate a casual atmosphere reminiscent of friends hanging out with a good bottle of wine in their home kitchen.

“We just want to be welcoming and comfortable,” she says. “A place where people can come in and hang out and learn.”

GYST will offer a healthy dose of education along with fermented delicacies. Knowing what goes into what’s going into your mouth adds to the experience—whether that means stories from the farmstead where the cheese on your “motherboard” originates, or the science behind the kombucha you’re swilling at the bar. GYST will also have a spacious backroom for tasting events and classes.

“We really want to feel connected to what we’re eating and drinking,” she says. “I think you’ll enjoy [our offerings] more with the stories behind it.”

The lease is signed. Build-out plans are in place. Permits have been submitted to the city. All the sisters need now is about $40,000 to make their fermented dream a reality. More than 100 backers have already pledged almost half that amount through a Kickstarter campaign that closes July 25. Once the Guses’ raise the dough and the permits are approved, they’ll embark on a 15-week renovation of their space.

 

Made Here/Parklot activate Hennepin Avenue

Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis continues to become more pedestrian-friendly and arts-oriented. Made Here, an outdoor urban walking gallery featuring dozens of unique art installations in vacant storefronts, launched last week alongside Parklot, a colorful pop-up in the surface parking lot next to the Orpheum Theatre. Both are part of Hennepin Theatre Trust’s 10th annual Summer in the City event.

Joan Vorderbruggen, Hennepin Theatre Trust’s cultural district arts coordinator, directed Made Here. Her Made Here showcase is the largest storefront- gallery initiative in the country. The current Made Here is the third and most ambitious show. It includes more than 50 artists and arts organizations from diverse disciplines, which have created 36 unique storefront displays across 15 city blocks.

Both projects are part of the Trust’s ongoing initiative to revitalize a cultural district that includes the historic Orpheum, State, Pantages and New Century theaters, as well as other arts and cultural institutions such as First Avenue and The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts.

On paper, the area seems a vibrant and walkable downtown district. But it suffers from a perceived “unevenness,” says Tom Hoch, Trust president, citing a 2010 survey and strategic planning session. Contributing to that unevenness are blocks of vacant storefronts and surface parking lots interspersed among the cultural institutions.

“No Vacancy,” a poignant Made Here installation by artist Robin Schwartzman, speaks directly to this issue. The work spans 18 windows across the second floor of the recently vacated Chevy’s building at 701 Hennepin Avenue. Blank paper covers the windows during the day while a neon sign reads “Vacancy.” Once the sun sets, the sign changes to “Sorry, No Vacancy,” and the windows come alive with animated silhouettes depicting scenes of people dancing, someone getting their hair cut, and other activities.

“When a space is vacant, it’s a void, and when it’s not, it’s vibrant,” Vorderbruggen explains, describing how “No Vacancy” relates to the overall project.

Similarly, Parklot activates an otherwise dormant space. A brightly painted checkerboard pattern covers the parking lot’s surface, extending on to the sidewalk and up the walls of adjacent buildings. Lush planters and configurable park furniture made from wooden pallets make the pop-up public gathering space tough to miss. Programming includes improv comedy from Brave New Workshop, break dancing and musical performances.

Four additional pop-up parks are planned for this year. The current Made Here installations are on display through October, and include a work from the Somali Museum of Minnesota—the only such museum in the country—that incorporates two authentic huts shipped from Djibouti, as well as other artifacts and art demonstrating traditional nomadic life.

Vorderbruggen says she intentionally ensured the Made Here art and artists reflect the diverse Twin Cities population that would encounter the work. More than 40 percent of the artists represented come from communities of color, she says.

She and Hoch also hope art installations in vacant storefronts become commonplace. “This is not a one-time thing,” Hoch says. “This is the way we hope all vacant storefronts in downtown Minneapolis are handled—that they are always programmed and that we have this connection with art, artists and space.”

“Downtown is everybody’s neighborhood,” he adds. “We’re providing opportunities for everybody to be here.”

 

Sisyphus Brewery differentiates itself with comedy

Sisyphus Brewery, named for a character in Greek mythology, plans to open in Loring Park in April. The brewery will include a taproom and a 100-seat theater for live comedy, music, and podcasts about beer. The name is about keeping things fresh, with new taps and new acts every week, says co-owner Sam Harriman.

Harriman, a comedy veteran who co-owns the brewery with his wife Catherine Cuddy, are renovating the first floor of a vintage warehouse space that previously served as storage for the nearby Dunwoody College of Technology. The 7,000-square-foot space has low ceilings, exposed brick walls, and industrial floors and ceilings that “We’re not touching,” he says.  The couple is taking a “less-is-more” kind of approach to the design, with wood and metal finishes setting the tone. 

Within the taproom area, Harriman adds, “we’re creating different zones” with booths, shuffleboard, and “a lot of different hangout spots.” In some ways, the place will feel more like a coffee shop, where people can linger over a beer or take in a show. The theater’s programming will come later — after the taproom gets set up.   

The couple decided to merge the brewery with an entertainment venue to differentiate Sisyphus from other breweries. In the near future, the local brewery scene will be “super competitive, more so than it is now,” he says. “I thought entertainment and beer would go perfectly together.”

Source: Sam Harriman, co-owner, Sisyphus Brewing  
Writer: Anna Pratt  



 





Peavey Plaza: A big win for preservationists

Last year, the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota (PAM), together with The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF), went to court to save Peavey Plaza, a historic landmark in downtown Minneapolis.

The City of Minneapolis had decided to scrap the aging plaza and build anew on the site. After suing the City to keep the place intact, PAM and TCLF came to a settlement agreement this past summer. The agreement stipulates that the plaza will be rehabbed. Recently, the National Trust for Historic Preservation called the Peavey outcome preservation's biggest win in 2013. 

Erin Hanafin Berg, a field representative for PAM, says she’s encouraged by the shout-out. “The fight to preserve Peavey put an enormous strain on our resources, so it is nice to be acknowledged for our efforts,” she says. 
  
The 1975-built modernist plaza was designed by M. Paul Friedberg + Partners. During the court proceedings, the preservation groups lined up historic designation for the plaza. “Often referred to by Friedberg as a 'park plaza,' this two-acre space is also described by him as 'a mixture of the American green space and the European hard space,'” the TCLF’s website reads.  

What’s next for the plaza? The alliance is working with partners, including TCLF, Preserve Minneapolis, Docomomo US MN, and the Minnesota chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, “to develop a strategy to lead a preservation solution,” Berg says. 

If the plaza is going to be successfully rehabilitated, she says, “Those of us who are interested in its preservation will have to marshal our resources and present both design and funding solutions."

The plaza needs a committed programming entity along with infrastructure and accessibility improvements, Berg says. “We’re inspired by the recent revitalization of Pittsburgh’s Mellon Square.”

Peavey is significant architecturally and historically. “We also think it is a really wonderful and unique public space that can and should be revived,” she says. “We like to think of it as everybody’s sunken living room — a place where a variety of year-round activities can take place for individuals, small groups, and crowds of people.”  

 
Source: Erin Hanafin Berg, field representative, Preservation Alliance of Minnesota 
Writer: Anna Pratt 







Block E's "Made Here" exhibit highlights vibrant local arts scene

Artists in Storefronts began a several years ago as a grassroots project to highlight the possibilities for vacant storefronts in Minneapolis’s Whittier neighborhood.

A number of local artists working in diverse mediums created artistic window displays that turned the street into a kind of public gallery.

It went over well, and now Joan Vorderbruggen, the project’s driving force, is bringing the same concept to downtown Minneapolis with Made Here, a showcase of local artists in 40 windows that wrap around the Block E complex between 6th and 7th streets on Hennepin Avenue. The unconventional group show, which opened late last month, will be on view through early 2014. 

Besides re-imagining the shopping and entertainment mall that has emptied out in recent years, Made Here draws attention to the up-and-coming Hennepin Cultural District. Although the district is in early stages, it's already well known for the theaters that line the avenue, Vorderbruggen says. The Hennepin Theatre Trust, Artspace, Walker Art Center and the city are sponsors of the Block E project.    
    
Already, the artwork, which includes an eclectic mix of everything from wooden handicrafts to “light drawings,” has transformed the avenue, Vorderbruggen says. From the street, the window--of which are illuminated--are a striking display. They're also fun to look at close-up, she says, adding that she likes to people-watch as passersby encounter the work.  

One group of paintings and illustrations by Mary Jane Mansfield speaks to the importance of family, she says. Photographer Gina Dabrowski's snapshots predate the former Block E building’s razing. It just so happens that the image hangs in front of a rundown kitchen, which harkens back to the old Block E that's pictured in the photos, she says. 

Block E has its challenges, but the response to the artwork has been encouraging, Vorderbruggen says. For example, a downtown commuter told her the exhibition has improved the experience of waiting at the bus stop in front of Block E, which faces Hennepin Avenue. She’s heard from security guards that random strangers are striking up conversations about the art. One day Vorderbruggen watched two young children pretend to be in a forest against the backdrop of Ann Klefstad’s whimsical tar-on-plywood greenery.

Passersby can also read through historical information relating to the avenue’s early days; the Hennepin History Museum produced some documents from its archives for the show. Poetry mounted on the old movie theater’s marquee, provided by writers from The Loft Literary Center, is another nice touch. Besides the imagery and text on view 24/7, tunes by local musicians come through outdoor speakers.    

It was an ambitious endeavor, but Made Here came together in a mere six weeks, following smaller-scale seed projects. The exhibit lends itself nicely to the cultural district, which emphasizes the avenue as a playground for all types of art and cultural experiences, Vorderbruggen says. People can take in a Broadway show and then check out the public artwork on foot, or vice versa, she adds.  

It’s still early in the show’s run, but it's already a success on more than one level. “It was a whole city block in downtown that was dark. We illuminated it,” she says. “We’re injecting beauty there.”  

Source: Joan Vorderbruggen, artist coordinator, Made Here
Writer: Anna Pratt 

French Corner Bistro & Bakery fills void for baked goods on Nicollet Mall

A new French-style bakery and bistro on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis is hosting its grand opening this Thursday.
 
The French Corner Bistro & Bakery, which had a soft opening earlier this month, offers a wide variety of baked goods, sandwiches, soups and salads, and wine.
 
Nadia Storchak, a co-owner of the place along with Vladimir Storchak and Chrystel Klein, says the bistro’s concept is comparable to that of the former Pardon My French restaurants. “It has a similar menu,” she says, adding, We have a French chef from France. So, it’s not only in the name. We have real French foods.”   
 
The bistro, which has 40 seats inside along with sidewal-café seating, brought about a dramatic makeover of the space, which once housed a bank. “We demolished everything that was here before and started again. It was a big project,” Storchak says.
 
Inside, the bistro has a French-inspired ambience, with an eye-catching chandelier and granite countertops. “It’s a transitional modern look,” she says.
 
The place fills a unique niche in the area. “It’s a big need for people living or working downtown. There are a lot of coffee shops, but no place to buy pastries,” she says. Already, the place has been busy. “It’s a great place just to spend time and hang out with friends,” Storchak says, adding, “We have the best macaroons in town. Everyone is saying they’re the best.”
 
French Corner Bistro & Bakery also helps bring business to the adjacent Dahl Pharmacy, which the Storchaks and Klein also own, she says.  
 
In the future, the bistro hopes to add catering services along with boxed lunches. “We’re looking forward to seeing more customers,” says Storchak.
 
 
Source: Nadia Storchak, co-owner, French Corner Bistro & Bakery
Writer: Anna Pratt
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