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St. Paul's 30th art crawl is 'a giant open house'

This month St. Paul held its 30th art crawl, and the semi-annual event has grown so popular that it has spawned a smaller, monthly version. Foot traffic at Saint Paul Art Crawls averages 20,00024,000, says Robyn Priestly, executive director at the Saint Paul Art Collective, the nonprofit that runs the event.

Spectacular fall weather may have suppressed attendance at this month's three-day crawl. Priestly says reports are still being tallied from organizers at the four "clumps" of studios across the city: Lowertown and downtown; Grand Avenue; University Avenue; and the East Side.

The crawls' appeal is partly architectural, Priestly says: "Looking at the buildings is part of it because these are great old buildings, whether they're the new rehabbed buildings on University Avenue or the old warehouses down in Lowertown."

First Friday open houses occur every month in which the collective isn't mounting an art crawl. The scaled-down monthly crawls feature studios in five Lowertown buildings: Tilsner, Jax, Lowertown Lofts, Northwestern Building and the Northern Warehouse. The next First Friday, on Nov. 5, marks the one-year anniversary of the event.

One of the collective's other projects has been opening a new art gallery in the Northern Warehouse. On exhibit now (call 651-292-4373 for hours): artwork by the collective's past and present board members.

The crawls grew out of open houses held by members of the Lowertown Lofts artists' cooperative 20 years ago. For the first decade they were annual affairs before growing to a twice-yearly event that has stayed true to its original impetus. "It is a giant open house," Priestly says.

Source: Robyn Priestley, St. Paul Art Collective
Writer: Chris Steller
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